Scotland leading the way with ambitious woodland creation targets

With the UK Government expected to announce the Glasgow Declaration of Forests and Land Use at today’s COP conference, the Scottish Government claims it is already leading the way with ambitious woodland creation targets.

Environment Minister Màiri McAllan
Environment Minister Màiri McAllan

Speaking ahead of the declaration, which will see 36 million new trees planted every year by 2024/25, Environment Minister Màiri McAllan highlighted that, in recent times, 80 per cent of all new tree planting in the UK took place in Scotland.

And with yearly targets set to rise from the current target of 12,000 hectares to 18,000 hectares of new woodland each year by 2024/25, she said Scotland had ‘raised the bar’ on tackling climate change through tree planting. Currently Scotland’s forests and woodlands cover around 1.45m hectares, an area equivalent to 19 per cent of the country’s total land area.

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“As we welcome world leaders to Scotland, we extend an open invitation to share our success story so that other nations can grow and protect their own forests and woodlands,” said McAllan.

She said that the Scottish achievements in tree planting had largely been achieved by working closely with the forest industries and woodland owners, both large and small.

However, while the farming sector has welcomed opportunities for planting “the right tree in the right place” to enhance carbon capture and has supported the wider integration of farming and forestry, as recently as last week NFU Scotland president, Martin Kennedy, struck out against the wholescale plantings of farms under forestry which he said not only took out good agricultural land but also the heart of rural communities.

Speaking at the union’s autumn conference last Thursday he said it appeared that there was never a day went by without another large tract of land being sold to non-farming purchasers for forestry carbon credits to offset what he termed their own failings to better their climate change credentials:

“This must top and it must stop now,” stated Kennedy, who called for a moratorium on whole farm sales for carbon credits which he warned threatened to turn the Scottish countryside into a “bargain basement” for foreign investors.

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has moved to counter the oft-quoted claims that reducing meat consumption was a swift means to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Urging the British public not to point the finger of blame at the nation’s farmers in the climate change debate, NSA chief executive, Phil Stocker said British agriculture was amongst the most sustainable and environmentally friendly in the world. However, he said the positive role which the sector could have on climate change continued to be ignored.

“Global agriculture may have a concerning carbon footprint that urgently needs to be addressed, but UK farming is different to ‘world agriculture’ and has an approach that can work in harmony with the climate and good environmental conditions,” said Stocker.

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“UK agriculture, and particularly sheep farming, is different because it is highly reliant on grass. The UK sheep industry operates extensively on open pasture, much of which is unsuitable for other land use.”

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