Written evidence submitted by Mr Bob Barker (TPW0007)

1. Introduction

My comments below are based on being a rambler in the countryside and an interest in reducing the impact of climate change. I have cut and pasted the questions below and put my response under each question. I don’t normally respond but climate change is too an important issue not to and tree planting is just one aspect.

2 Questions and Response.

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

It is the overall climate change/biodiversity/biosecurity response which is key. Whilst on the face of it the target is fine if the overall programme is not sufficient for the UK as a whole to play its part in reducing/stopping further climate change then neither is the tree planting target sufficient.

In particular the balance between funding tree planting and the increasing evidence of carbon absorption by diverse seaweed plantations(which also has at least as many benefits –food, fish nurseries etc-as tree planting) needs to be discussed in a better way. They need to be regarded as ‘forests of the sea’.

An overall climate change plant strategy, covering terrestrial and marine, needs to be developed.

2) Are the right structures in place to ensure that the UK wide target for increasing forestry coverage is delivered?

The cut backs in forestry and biodiversity research on impacts on climate change in the UK are likely to prevent the programme from being optimised to plant the right trees in the right place and encourage the biodiversity/security needed. The science is essential to ensure the planting strategy is robust against the impact of more extreme (flood/drought/heat etc) weather and disease. This is the time to increase research, not decrease it.

3) How effective is the co-ordination between the four nations on forestry issues, including biosecurity, plant health and other cross-border issues?

The implications from other programmes (tourism,COVID,etc) is no- we do not seem to do it very well.

4) Why were previous ambitions for increasing tree planting in England not met and what lessons should be learned?

It would take more expertise than I have to answer this question.

5) In relation to increasing forestry coverage in England, what should the Government be trying to achieve? For example, how should the following policy objectives be prioritised?

    -  Mitigating or adapting to climate change;

    -  Promoting biodiversity and nature recovery;

    -  Increasing biosecurity and plant health;

    -  Improving human well-being and health;

    -  Protecting natural and cultural heritage;

    -  Food security;

    -  Creating commercial opportunities from forestry, tourism and recreation; and

    -  Any other priorities?

The first 3 have to be the top priority but by ensuring access and appropriate planning law so trees are planted in the right place and are protected the health, heritage and tourist aspects can easily be included.

6) Are the right policies and funding in place to appropriately protect and manage existing woodlands in England? How will prospective changes to policy and legislation effect this?

The changes in planning law are likely to make it easier to destroy existing woodland for development.

The tree planting target needs to be a ‘net trees in existence’ target.

There needs to be more encouragement of the multilayer approach of farming with trees producing at the highest level and other crops underneath. This will take research to properly adapt it for UK economics and climate.

Existing farming polices need to be reviewed again climate change. For example hedges( merely small trees) need to be encouraged but some of the policies around them need serious review. In parts of even England because of the different climates the current polices mean farmers have to prune the hedges at the worse time of year for birds.

Climate change will mean farming policies need to be far more fleet of foot and climate specific to cope.

The law needs upgrading to protect in particular urban trees and trees at the right age for maximum carbon absorption. A case study of Sheffield and its programme to cut down urban trees needs to be undertaken and lessons learnt. What was the funding/cost benefit/contract law background which drove the council to even propose the large programme? Whilst some trees clearly need cutting down many had years of useful carbon absorption, pollution control, health benefits life left.

Trees are more than just about woodlands



3 Conclusion

I would urge

-have an overall terrestrial and marine plant strategy covering carbon absorption, biodiversity and biosecurity  which has a mechanism of interacting with the other points like health, food, heritage commercial  aspects etc

-increasing spending on the science so plants for carbon absorption etc ( including trees) strategy is robust  and covers the existing and future climate and disease scenarios.

-policy mechanisms are improved to make them take a greater account of the science and are better able to adapt to climate and disease changes we do not yet know about.



Bob Barker.