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Planting trees may stop 10% of UK's emissions

Source: Irish Times

PLANTING ENOUGH trees to cover an extra 4 per cent of the UK in woodland could lock up one-tenth of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century, researchers said yesterday.

Planting 23,000 hectares a year – the equivalent of 30,000 football pitches – in appropriate places would involve changing the use of only 4 per cent of land in the UK, bringing woodland cover to a total of 16 per cent of the country’s land area.

But it could make a “significant and cost-effective” contribution to meeting the UK’s emissions targets, under which the country has to slash its greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050, the scientists said.

Forestry can be used to store carbon and for fuel and construction material, to avoid using fossil fuels.

But carbon storage declines as younger trees – which store more carbon than older forests – mature. Tripling tree planting could help reverse those declines, the report for the Forestry Commission said.

Using wood products in construction could create the potential to store an extra 10 million tonnes of carbon in new and refurbished homes by 2019, while wood fuel could replace fossil fuels and save around seven million tonnes of CO2 a year within the next five years.

Prof Sir David Read, who chaired the panel, said: “All our research points to the fact that forestry can make a significant and cost-effective contribution to meeting the UK’s challenging emissions reduction targets.

“By increasing our tree cover, we can lock up carbon directly. By using more wood for fuel and construction materials, we can make savings by using less gas, oil and coal, and by substituting sustainably produced timber for less climate-friendly materials.

“Tree planting . . . could play a significant part in reducing the UK’s CO2 emissions.”

Environment secretary Hilary Benn said: “Forests and trees are an important part of the way we live and interact with our surroundings, and we cannot underestimate the role that trees will play in reducing our carbon emissions. Greater forest cover can help us achieve this either through directly absorbing C02 or by providing more sustainable materials for construction and renewable energy.

“The government welcomes Prof Read’s report, and as a nation we need to plant a very large number of trees over the next 40 years to tackle climate change by bringing down our carbon emissions. The government will work with communities and businesses to ensure that this happens.”

Sue Holden, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, said the conservation charity had been calling for a doubling of native tree cover. “The UK is one of the least-wooded countries in Europe. There is an urgent need to create landscapes that enable wildlife and people to better adapt to climate change.

“They [trees] would also substantially improve water quality, reduce flooding, counter air pollution and cool our towns and cities,” she added. – (PA)






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