The government has ‘zero chance’ of reaching its tree planting targets, the UK’s forestry trade body has warned.
The UK government pledged in 2019 to reach 30,000 hectares (115 square miles) of annual planting by the end of 2024 – as part of ambitious plans to offset carbon emissions and revive the country’s woodlands.
Downing Street is committed to reaching ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050, and trees can sequester carbon from the atmosphere, helping to limit global warming.
However, during the financial year spanning 2021/2022, just under 14,000 hectares (54 sq miles) were planted.
The target of 30,000 hectares is equivalent to between 90-120m trees per year, depending on the density of the planting.
The Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor), which represents 1,500 UK forestry businesses, said in a statement there was “zero chance” of the government fulfilling that pledge.
“This is a total policy failure in both economic and environmental terms,” said Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall.
“Report after report has shown that increased tree planting and wood use is vital to meeting the UK’s net zero targets – yet this is not being translated into trees in the ground,” he said.
Defra told the BBC in a statement the government was currently on track to meet the target but acknowledged there was there was “more to do to stay on our ambitious trajectory”.