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Trees and Woodland: Carbon Target

Volume 622: debated on Thursday 2 March 2017

6. What the contribution of trees and woodland creation is to meeting the Government’s carbon target. (909004)

We recognise the important role that forestry plays in the United Kingdom as a carbon sink. In 2015, forestry contributed an annual emissions reduction of 17.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to our carbon reduction targets.

During last week’s Storm Doris, many trees were felled by the force of nature, and we could see that many of them were diseased. What is the Department doing to ensure that threats to tree health are factored into the carbon reduction strategy?

The Government take tree health extremely seriously. That is why we promote biosecurity internationally, at UK borders and inland to ensure that pest and disease risks are effectively managed, so that we can continue to actively manage our woodlands and forests and contribute to the carbon reduction targets.

As well as helping to meet the Government’s carbon target, the planting of trees has a wide range of environmental benefits. Does the Minister think that the Department’s plans are ambitious enough to reap the benefits that trees and woodland undoubtedly bring?

I do think that they are sufficiently ambitious. We are absolutely confident that we will hit our target of planting 11 million new trees during the lifetime of this Parliament. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will speak to his former right hon. Friend the Mayor of London to ensure that he plants the 2 million trees that he pledged to plant, before he was elected.

The Minister will be aware of the outbreak of sweet chestnut blight near Exeter. I welcome the first national survey of historical woodland, but what more can be done in the short term to prevent the importation of the devastating diseases that are spread by the international plant trade while doing nothing to discourage tree planting and woodland creation?

Biosecurity is one of the key elements for the agencies at our borders, and they are proactive in trying to identify risks and threats coming into this sector. That is why we will always encourage people to buy trees grown in this country.