Call for more trees to tackle the climate crisis; here's how we can all help

By Fiona Evans
Thursday, 16th December 2021, 5:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th December 2021, 5:02 pm

The Woodland Trust' s Big Climate Fightback aims to get people planting more trees.

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Of course it’s open to interpretation but has there ever been a more apt moment for a literal reading of this saying?

With just weeks to go before the international climate change conference, COP26, the Woodland Trust issued a stark prediction - the UK risks failing to meet its carbon net zero ambitions unless more trees are planted, woodland restored and the condition of woods improved.

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    A report from the charity had already presented a sobering picture of the health of the country’s trees and woods, noting that only seven per cent of UK native woodlands were in good condition.

    However, as the adage implies; ‘better late than never’.

    Dr Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said that not enough trees have been planted in the past, but “things can change.”

    “With recent decades warmer, wetter and sunnier than the 20th century and 2020 the third warmest on record, it is clear we are in a climate crisis, but we are in a nature crisis too,” said Dr Moorcroft.

    “This is a dismal and sobering picture. Our woods are not in great shape, and we remain one of the least wooded countries at 13 per cent woodland cover, compared to 37 per cent in the rest of Europe.

    “Without greater action, small and fragmented woods will remain that way and species will face extinction. But it is not too late – things can change.”

    The Woodland Trust has sent more than 700,000 free native trees to schools and communities (Credit: Shutterstock)

    The Woodland Trust’s third nationwide campaign – the Big Climate Fightback – aims to get people planting more trees.

    The charity has sent more than 700,000 free native trees to schools and communities, with a further 680,000 trees available to be planted in March.

    In total, the Woodland Trust will have sent 1.4 million free trees by March to support the Big Climate Fightback, which is backed by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

    "We can all play a role in increasing tree numbers to help nature recover and tackle the climate crisis"

    “Not only do we not have enough trees, what we have is still at risk and as a result nature has declined steeply,” said Dr Moorcroft.

    “While action on biosecurity and woodland loss is largely outside the influence of the public, we can all play a role in increasing tree numbers to help nature recover and tackle the climate crisis.

    “The UK has created less than 300,000 hectares of new woodland in the last 20 years. Over the next 20 years, we need three times that amount – and 1.44 million hectares of new woodland by 2050. It’s an uphill task and the pace needs to pick up, but together it can be done.”

    The Woodland Trust, which is aiming to establish 50 million new trees by 2025, wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

    Its State of the UK’s Woods and Trees report highlighted some stark warnings including: woodland species are in steep decline; and tree disease and pests are causing local extinctions of wildlife species across the UK.

    It noted that woodlands are already impacted by climate change – spring now arrives on average 8.4 days earlier than the first part of the 20th century, which can be catastrophic for nature.

    Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “The Big Climate Fightback aims to rally the nation to get behind tree planting by finding those underused areas in our communities that could accommodate more trees and make a difference in the fight against climate change and provide havens for wildlife.”

    The Woodland Trust has free trees that community groups and schools can apply for now.

    Alternatively, people can buy native trees such as rowan, oak, wild cherry and silver birch from its online shop: https://shop.woodlandtrust.org.uk/

    The cutoff for applying for the tree packs to arrive in March closes on January 4.

    After that, there is another application process for trees which will arrive in November.