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Climate Change Experts Raise Concerns Over Shortage In Tree Planting

The Scottish government’s climate change advisers have raised “serious concerns” about cuts to tree planting.

It was announced in December that the woodland creation budget was being slashed by 41% from £77.2m to £45.4m.

Ministers have admitted the cut means they will fall well short of next year’s target of 18,000 hectares of new woodland to tackle climate change.

The Scottish government has blamed the decision on cuts to the block grant from Westminster.

The forestry sector said the decision will mean millions of small trees which have been growing in nurseries ready for planting will have to be destroyed.

The Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor) wrote to the Climate Change Committee (CCC) seeking its advice on the decision.

The committee provides independent expert advice to both the Scottish and UK governments over their plans to tackle global warming.

In response to the letter, CCC chief executive Chris Stark said any delay in tree planting would risk not achieving the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions which are required to meet targets in the 2030s and beyond.

He added that the budget cuts “represent a continued gap in Scotland meeting its tree planting ambition” and that the committee has “serious concerns” about the plans.

Stuart Goodall, chief executive of Confor, said the industry will take many years to regain the confidence to invest.

He added: “It is vital that in the coming weeks, Scotland’s government listens to the CCC and works with Confor and the Woodland Trust to find a funding solution.”

New tree planting is a crucial component in tackling greenhouse gas emissions because they soak up the planet-warming gas carbon dioxide.

But there’s a time lag between planting trees and that natural process significantly kicking in.

The committee had previously advised that Scotland needs to be planting 15,000 hectare of new woodlands each year from 2025.

Previous annual targets have been consistently missed with planting rates in 2022/23 only reaching 8,200 hectares.

Ministers say the budget for 2024/25 will allow for only 9,000 hectares of new woodlands, although they point out that Scotland’s contribution is still larger than that of the rest of the UK combined.

Opposition parties have condemned the cuts to the woodland creation budget with the Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie submitting a motion urging a rethink.

The motion has been supported by Labour and Conservative MSPs.

Mr Rennie said: “The Scottish government’s cuts to woodland creation are another ill-considered decision that will have negative effects further down the road.

“Expanding forestry can be a win-win, trapping carbon and restoring habitats for native wildlife.”

The Scottish government’s Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “To grow our woodland resource and tackle climate change takes funding, yet the UK government has reduced the capital spend to Scotland by 10% and this has had serious knock on effects for woodland creation.

“I would welcome the committee’s support in seeking further funding from the UK government so that we can all get more trees in the ground and tackle climate change and nature loss.”

 

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