06 NOVEMBER 2018
Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme (£50 million)
The details of the new Carbon Guarantee Scheme have not been released, but it appears to be a Woodland Carbon Code (1) scheme that allows the government to buy carbon credits to offset their emissions in other areas. If it is anything like the Woodland Carbon Fund (2), we can expect a large proportion of the funding to go to private landowners with an interest in establishing productive woodland for timber.
This will certainly have environmental benefits (habitat, carbon sequestration, etc.) and may give the forestry industry a boost in the process, but there is no guarantee that it will provide accessible woodland for the benefit of the public.
Urban planting (£10 million)
Local authorities have had to tighten their belts during the years of austerity of the last decade, and as a result urban tree management has become decidedly more reactive. This budget will give local authorities some breathing room to start proactively planning the ‘treescapes’ of tomorrow. Undoubtedly, the cash allocated to tree planting in the budget will be welcome news to many Tree Officers (who have probably been vigorously leafing through their Barcham’s catalogues since the release).
However, Table 2.1 of the budget indicates that the vast majority of the funding in the 6-year spending plan will be released between 2019-2021, with only ‘negligible’ amounts being spent after that time. This is worrying as it suggests that aftercare costs have not been included in this budget. It is estimated that up to 50% of current urban tree planting results in failure in the first year after planting (3) and a common cause of this failure is lack of aftercare (4). The importance of well-funded aftercare regimes cannot be underestimated, or we may end up with a lot of freshly deceased young trees decorating our urban areas.
3 Hirons, Andrew & Percival, Glynn. (2011). Fundamentals of tree establishment: a review.
4 Hirons, Andrew & Thomas, Peter. (2017). Applied Tree Biology.
The 2018 budget will be music to the ears of the forestry industry both rural and urban. An increase of 10 million woodland trees (approx. 5,000 hectares) will help meet the needs of many stakeholders, and particularly the UK government in meeting its carbon emission reduction targets.
However, if we put the scheme in a larger context the budget is very conservative: the UK is one of the least-wooded countries in Europe with 13% tree cover compared to the European average of 35%. 10 million trees won’t reconcile this difference in the near future.
The most noticeable public benefit will stem from the £10 million earmarked for urban planting. These trees will reduce air & sound pollution, contribute to urban cooling, and increase psychological health, to name just a few of the benefits. However, the funds should be carefully managed to include appropriate aftercare so that these urban trees can work their magic where they are needed the most.
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