Tories slashed tree planting fund by more than 40%

Funding for afforestation projects in England has fallen steeply under the Conservatives, according to new research published in the wake of the party's ambitious tree planting election pledges.

The Conservatives have promised to plant 30 million trees every year by 2025 with a new £640m pot of money as part of their election commitments. But funding for tree planting in England actually fell by 43% to £13.5m in the 2017/18 financial year from the year before, according to Friends of the Earth (FoE).

FoE’s analysis published today shows that when the Conservative Party took over from the coalition government, spending on trees and forestry in England amost halved compared to what was available in 2008/09 and just over a third when compared with 2013/14, when £33.9m was allocated..

Recent reports show that 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%.

While funding in England has dropped, Wales and Scotland have increased their funding for tree planting, with £4.7m invested by Wales in 2017/18, up from £3.3m in 2016/17 and £37.9m in Scotland, up from £30.5m over the same period. 

Emi Murphy, a trees campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “We’re calling for the next government to properly fund the doubling of tree cover.”

Before the general election was announced, the government introduced a 30-year, £50 million Woodland Carbon Fund, but current funding cycles are ending with existing EU-related agri-environment schemes due to expire in 2021, according to the FoE report.

To read FoE’s findings in full click here

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