The Welsh Government has been urged to invest in planting millions more trees to show it is serious about tackling the damaging impact of climate change.
Confor, which represents 1500 forestry and wood-using businesses across the UK, backed calls by Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths for a “collective response” to the climate emergency, declared by the Welsh Government in April.
Anthony Geddes, Confor National Manager for Wales, said the move would boost the rural economy – and prove that the climate emergency was not just a meaningless statement with nothing to back it up.
Confor has set clear annual targets for woodland creation in Wales. They start at a modest 500 hectares of annual woodland creation in 2020, rising progressively to 10,000 hectares annually by 2030. Mr Geddes said: “If these
targets are achieved it would lead to 59,000 hectares of new woodland creation in Wales, which would make a substantial contribution towards reducing atmospheric carbon and helping to halt damaging climate change.
“The recent increase in the appetite to plant is very encouraging and is being led by Welsh farmers and landowners. These are woodlands that could be created in Welsh communities providing real improvements in air and water quality, flood reduction, habitat connectivity and high-quality welsh timber.”
“Unfortunately, planting trees in Wales is a real challenge. Since the announcement of the Climate Emergency, the Glastir programme for woodland creation has been re-introduced and there has been an overwhelming response from Welsh farmers and landowners to rise to the challenge of planting trees. However, delays by Rural Payments Wales (RPW) in administering
Glastir funding have hit planting opportunities hard. Only 30 percent of the Welsh Government target of 2000 hectares has been funded this year – but due to RPW failings we’re unlikely to see tree planting start till late 2020.”
Andrew Bronwin of forestry firm Bronwin & Co said: “If we are to make a real difference to decarbonisation and climate change targets, it is essential that the Welsh Government puts more money into planting.”