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Forests of the Future

Can tree planting really reduce our emissions? Peter Gibbs discovers that reforestation may not be the simple solution politicians crave.

Just a few months ago politicians across the spectrum were promising trees, glorious trees, in abundance. In an unlikely game of Top Trumps the numbers of trees promised reached into billions, ultimately settling at an ambitious promise of 30,000 hectares a year by 2025.

So, how are we going to reach this target over the next 5 years and is it even the right goal? Things have not begun well with thousands of saplings left to rot after they could not be planted due to coronavirus restrictions and campaigners condemning the government targets as ‘inadequate’. At the same time many experts urge caution as the current push for more trees could result in trees being planted on land which should be used for agriculture or on landscapes which are important carbon stores such as peatland.

Even if we can find the space we may not have the tree stocks or the skilled workforce to create sustainable woodlands. The current coronavirus crisis has highlighted just how vulnerable the UK nursery industry is without long term planning. We need a trained workforce to plant and care for trees as well as plans for the trees grown to be used sustainably.

However, there are other ways. Natural regeneration and nurturing existing woodlands could be a better way to capture carbon long term and improve biodiversity. What we plant and how will have a huge affect on how much carbon the tree absorbs depending on how long they will be left standing but landowners will want to see some return on land used for tree planting.

Peter Gibbs delves into the detail behind the mantra of ‘right tree, right place’ to find out what we should be planting, where we should plant and how to create a forest fit for the future.

Producer Helen Lennard

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28 minutes

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Last Wednesday 21:00

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