DEFRA unveils £50m woodland creation scheme

The government will provide £50m for landowners in England to create new woodland as a way of tackling climate change and biodiversity loss.

DEFRA and the Forestry Commission launched on Monday a fund that will allow landowners to sell ‘woodland carbon units’ to the government for a fixed price or on the open market over a 35-year period. 

Sir Harry Studholme, chair of the Forestry Commission, said in a statement that the government-backed woodland carbon price should “give confidence to landowners and investors, and encourage the planting of the right kind of trees at a viable scale”. 

To qualify for participating in the scheme, landowners must prove that land they intend to plant trees on land that has been devoid of tree cover for at least 25 years. 

New woodland “can be established by planting, direct seeding or natural regeneration”, according to the UK Woodland Carbon Code that will govern the scheme.

While the Wildlife and Countryside Link welcomed the new funding as a “significant step towards tackling the climate and nature crisis”, it urged the government to make sure “it funds the right trees in the right places” and provide priority funding for “other nature-based solutions”. 

Nature campaigner Miles King suggested via Twitter that similar guarantee schemes for peatland and grassland should be introduced. “Both of these are also great at capturing carbon (as well as providing other benefits),” he said.

Analysis carried out by ENDS has shown the UK needs to triple the rate of tree planting in order to meet the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, the government’s climate advisers. 

The Forestry Commission has said England is on track to meet its commitment to plant 11 million trees between 2017-2022, having missed its previous goal for 2020. 

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