Government advisers the Committee on Climate Change say forest cover in the UK will need to increase from the existing 13% to 19% by 2050, which would save 8-18 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
This would mean a three-fold increase on current tree planting levels.
The Forestry Commission is in charge of fulfilling the government’s afforestation targets, which includes a commitment to plant 11 million trees in England between 2017-2022, having missed the previous 2020 goal. The commission’s chief, Sir Harry Studholme, says it is on track to meet the new objective.
However, the government has failed by a wide margin to hit its aspirational target of planting new trees across 5,000 hectares of land in England every year. Official figures from Forest Research show DEFRA falling short of the target by 71%.
Across the UK, a total of 13,390 hectares of newly created woodland was planted in 2018-19.Scotland planted 11,210 hectares in the period, England 1,420 hectares and Wales and Northern Ireland planted 520 and 240 hectares respectively.
Conifers accounted for 60% of the total area of new planting, with most of it (92%) taking place on private sector land, according to Forestry Research figures.