Written evidence submitted by Bright Blue (TPW0006)


In February 2020, Bright Blue published a manifesto-style report, Global green giant? A policy story, which highlighted the challenge of biodiversity decline and put forward a series of policy recommendations to stem the tide on biodiversity decline.


1) Are the UK Government’s targets for increasing forestry coverage, and tree planting, for England and the UK sufficiently ambitious and realistic?


Trees act as a shelter for wildlife, prevent soil erosion, increase soil fertility, purify our waterways, combat air pollution, provide timber, alleviate flood risk, deliver benefits for human mental health, and increase biodiversity.[1] The ability of trees to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, once all available cost-effective decarbonisation technologies have been deployed, also makes them one of the most effective tools in deeper decarbonisation.


The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has suggested that afforestation efforts must double in the 2020s, and triple in the 2030s (to 27,000 hectares) in order to keep emission reductions on target with the UK’s growing population.[2] The CCC cites the population growth forecast of an additional nine million people by 2050 as a need to combat increasing emissions.[3]


In response, in their 2019 election manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged to invest an additional £640 million in nature-based solutions as part of their newly unveiled Nature for Climate fund.[4] Through this, they aim to plant 30 million trees a year by 2025.[5]


However, predicted population growth rates can change over time, as can economic growth and its associated levels of emissions – particularly through future technologies which cannot be accounted for presently.


We recommend regularly reviewing and, if necessary, updating, the UK’s afforestation target so it is in line with trends in population growth and decarbonisation. This review should be led by the CCC and the Forestry Commission, in consultation with other relevant organisations, on a five-yearly basis.


The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for expanding, protecting, and promoting woodlands. The Forestry Commission does not have a programme to engage young people in afforestation and conservation.


The Government’s afforestation targets are an opportunity to engage young people in conservation. Currently, there are 3,448 state secondary schools in the UK.[6] Given the next generation will be the custodians of our environment, it is important that more young people are involved in learning about and conducting conservation.


We recommend that every state secondary school in the country should plant and name an area of trees to support the government’s new afforestation target. The school should be granted funding from government to take a selection of pupils on a trip to learn about and do the tree-planting. The location of the tree planting should be decided in conjunction with the Forestry Commission, who are responsible for tree-planting targets.


About Bright Blue


Bright Blue is an independent think tank that champions liberal conservatism. Our work is

guided by five research themes: social reform; immigration and integration; ageing society;

green conservatism; and human rights. We were shortlisted for the 2016, 2017 and 2018

and 2019 UK social policy think tank of the year and UK environment and energy think tank

of the year awards in the prestigious Prospect Magazine annual awards.


October 2020

[1] Tree People, “Top 22 benefits of trees”, https://www.treepeople.org/tree-benefits (2019).

[2] Damian Carrington, “Tree planting in the UK must double to tackle climate change” https:// www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/15/tree-planting-double-uk-climate-change (2018).

[3] Committee on Climate Change, “Land use: reducing emissions and preparing for climate change”, https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Land-use-Reducing-emissions-and-preparingfor-climate-change-CCC-2018-1.pdf (2018), 22.

[4] The Conservative and Unionist Party, “Get Brexit done. Unleash Britain’s potential”, https:// assets-global.website-files.com/5da42e2cae7ebd3f8bde353c/5dda924905da587992a064ba_ Conservative%202019%20Manifesto.pdf, (2019), 43.

[5] BBC, “General election 2019: Tories and Lib Dems in rival tree-planting pledges”, https://www. bbc.co.uk/news/election-2019-50440867 (2019).

[6] Department for Education, “Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2019”, https:// assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/812539/ Schools_Pupils_and_their_Characteristics_2019_Main_Text.pdf (2019), 5.