There’s a growing recognition and desire for a low-carbon 'green recovery' as we emerge from crisis. But Partner in Forestry, Andy Turnbull, asks if a new way of valuing forests could be the real catalyst for a step change in UK woodland creation?
Tree planting across the UK totalled 13,460 hectares for the year to 31 March 2020, according to the latest official figures, with 80% undertaken in Scotland. This is less than half of the UK Government’s target - 30,000 hectares of new woodland every year by 2025.
The 30,000 per hectare target was a recommendation put forward by the Committee on Climate Change who highlighted the benefits that tree planting can have on sequestering CO2 and tackling climate change.
Planting more forests of all types, modern productive timber producing woodlands in particularly, will support a green recovery but we are yet to see a step-change in woodland expansion and restoration across the UK. Perhaps a new report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) will provide increased recognition of the wider ‘value of forests’ and stimulate the much-needed boost to UK woodland creation targets.
The report draws attention to the non-timber benefits of the world’s forests, including the storage of massive amounts of carbon, helping to purify water and air, sheltering natural biodiversity and providing livelihoods for millions of people globally. They estimate the total value of the world’s forests to be as much as $150 trillion, which is nearly double the value of the global stock markets. It was the ability of forests to store carbon and regulate climate that amounted to 90% of this value.
BCG identified six critical actions that can protect the world’s forests and limit deforestation. Number one on the list was to “restore and plant forests for the purposes of protection as well as wood production, sustainably manage these and more of the existing forests”. The UK has a robust regulatory system covering woodland management in the form of the UK Forestry Standard and most large-scale timber producing forests are independently audited for sustainable management via the UK Woodland Assurance Scheme. None the less, the UK still imports around 80% of its timber use requirements.
Planting more woodland here in the UK would be a positive step in helping to preserve and enhance the true value of forests worldwide. Further evolution of the UK’s regulated woodland carbon market could help stimulate increased planting levels by facilitating easier access for “green finance” investment into productive conifer woodland creation projects.
Read the BCG report here: https://www.bcg.com/de-de/publications/2020/the-staggering-value-of-forests-and-how-to-save-them.aspx