A Labour policy regarding the planting of more trees has ruffled a few leaves this morning.
Labour announced its “plan for nature” on Thursday morning, which included a pledge to plant two billion new trees by 2040. The Conservatives and Lib Dems proposed similar plans, but with fewer trees.
As some have worked out, hitting this target would mean planting around 300,000 trees a day. This plan has received some criticism for the size of the proposed figure and the question of where space would be for these trees.
The task of planting hundreds of thousands of trees a day isn’t an impossible idea; the BBC once lead an initiative which planted an estimated 230,000 trees in an hour in 2009, using mainly volunteers. In Turkey, over 300,000 were planted in an hour in 2019.
It’s also debatable whether there would be enough space in England and Wales for the proposed billions of trees. Between 88% and 99.9% of the UK isn’t “developed”, but this doesn’t necessarily mean this is free land—we are unaware right now exactly where Labour would want to plant their new trees.
The plan would also be affected by what type of trees are planted, as, quite simply, some trees are bigger than others. As a *very* rough estimate, Labour’s plan would cover around 5% of current UK land.
In May the Committee on Climate Change published a report setting out that around 30,000 hectares of woodland need to be added to the UK in each of the next thirty years in order to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The Woodland Trust says that’s the equivalent of 1.5 billion trees by 2050. So Labour would need to plant at about twice that rate, to hit their target of 2 billion by 2040.
For scale, in 2018-2019, thirteen thousand hectares of new woodland were created in the UK. The Woodland Trust says a target of 32,000 hectares a year is “not an insurmountable challenge… but policy enablement and incentivisation are key and are in the hands of Government”