The Scottish government has just announced that they have surged past their national tree planting goals by planting over 22 million trees in 2018
The new trees amount to roughly 11,200 hectares (43 square miles) of new forestry added in 2018 alone, which comfortably surpasses their current goal of adding at least 10,000 hectares every year.
The Scottish forest industry is also outstripping the rest of the UK as 84% of all new planting took place in Scotland.
Welcoming the figures, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This is fantastic news that we’ve smashed the targets. It is testament to the Scottish Government making forestry a priority and investing and helping growing the industry.
“The whole tree planting effort has truly been a national endeavor with all forestry interests, both large and small, pulling together. With an increase in tree planting in the pipeline, it is now more important than ever to make sure the right trees are planted in the right places.
“In Scotland alone, around 9.5 million tonnes of CO2 each year are removed from the atmosphere by our forests – this is a clear example of why an increase in tree planting is so important in the fight against climate change,” he added.
The Forestry and Land department of the Scottish Government has directly contributed towards surpassing the planting targets with around 1,000 hectares being planted between 2018 and 2019. The remaining 10,200 hectares were planted by a range of private forestry interests.
A mixture of an improved and streamlined applications process, more promotion and better grant packages have helped boost tree planting across Scotland.
The Scottish Government, as part of their climate change commitments, has already upped the planting targets for the future to 15,000 hectares a year starting in 2024.
Scotland’s forests cover 19% of the total land mass area and the ambition contained in Scottish Government’s forestry strategy is to increase this to 21% by 2032.
For perspective, the amount of woodland cover that is currently sheltering the rest of the UK stands at 8% in Northern Ireland, 15% in Wales, and only 10% in England after they failed to meet their annual tree planting goals by about 3,600 hectares.
“I’m really pleased we’ve hit our planting targets in Scotland,” said Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, which represents the forestry and wood processing sector.
“Planting trees locks up carbon and by harvesting and replanting them sustainably, we can produce an infinitely renewable supply of wood with which to build homes and to manufacture an array of everyday products – all while also reducing carbon in the atmosphere.
“Scotland is leading the way in the UK, with 84 per cent of all new planting happening in Scotland. Confor has worked long and hard with the Scottish Government to get to this point and I truly hope the momentum will be maintained in the coming years. We now need the rest of the UK to move beyond ramped-up rhetoric on a climate emergency and begin to take the positive action that we see in Scotland.”
Dr. Sam Gardner, deputy director at WWF Scotland added: “Woodlands will play an increasingly important role in capturing carbon and reducing Scotland’s contribution to climate change. These statistics show that Scotland can not only meet its own targets, while also making a significant contribution to the UK’s response to the climate emergency.
“We need to ramp up these efforts to meet the scale of the challenge but do so in a sustainable and integrated way, capturing carbon and delivering nature rich productive woodlands,” he added.
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