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The UK is taking bold steps to tackle climate change - how will this strategy work?


The UK has set out a plan to treble tree planting by May 2024, to assist the monumental fight against climate change. This was pledged by the UK’s environment secretary, George Eustice (Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).


This has been a sigh of relief for many environmentalists who have called for more to be done by the government for a long time. Currently, “2340 hectares are planted each year” (according to Sky news) and the government plans to increase this to 7000 hectares annually (1 hectare is roughly 0.01km^2 for reference). This significant increase in planting will inevitably come with large costs, as this will be very capital and labour intensive for the forestry organisations who will receive funding for this, and will be an opportunity cost for the government in the short run. However, this concurs with the UK’s macroeconomic objectives to be carbon neutral by 2050, a highly ambitious goal too.


This is set to have positive externalities on society and the welfare of the population in an attempt to boost public health, and as a result establishing shorter waiting times for the NHS, which currently stands at 5,000,000 UK residents awaiting treatment; therefore allowing more people to be treated and ultimately fit and ready to contribute to the workforce.


The plan comes out as “UK prepares to host the COP26 global climate change conference in Glasgow later this year (Nov 2021)”


According to Reuters, there are 4 goals the UK government is focused on: “securing global net-zero, protecting communities and natural habitats from the impacts of climate change, mobilising finance, and nations working together to accelerate action.” This has been regarded as very ambitious once more by the UK government and has sparked criticism over its necessity given current threats over coronavirus variants and potential lockdown too.


However, there has been no specific arrangement or clarification regarding when the scheme will begin to take place, or where in the UK this has been proposed; this could just be due to the scheme being in a preliminary state. However, climate advisers say that the UK woodland area needs to increase up to 17% by 2050 (currently at 13%) so this scheme seems to be on the right trajectory in order to be sustainable.


However, this means that, according to Sky, “90 to 120 million trees will need to be planted in the UK annually” (around 30,000 hectares long). This huge number means that this would not be a yearly event to occur, and from 2024, this would therefore be made a perpetuating cycle of replanting. This will take a huge effort in order to achieve, and many workers could be employed or sent to contribute towards this national effort in an attempt to reshape our country.


In 2019-2020, there were 13,700 hectares of newly planted trees, yet the abundance of these was located in Scotland. This, therefore, shows how we cannot just concentrate our efforts on the Barron Scottish highlands, as this will not see the vast effects be implemented on the wider population, due to its sparse population.


According to the sky, “Critics have also warned that the placement of planting drives must be carefully considered, as some previous efforts have hurt the environment by draining carbon-storing peatlands or planting on wildlife-rich heaths.” This therefore could create negative impacts on the environment, a converse effect to desired, and in fact, have harmful effects on ecosystems and natural carbon sinks.


Danny Gross, a trees campaigner at Friend of the Earth, is not overly impressed with this announcement: “The government's new plan fails to rise to the challenge of the climate and nature crisis.” He believes they are not taking the necessary steps to reach the UK target and more should be done. Danny also went on to say that the “government needs to up its game” as the government will need to “protect other natural habitats and support farmers to grow more trees.”


However, on the contrary to this argument, David Attenborough states that there is a danger that “whole ecosystems will collapse” and that they are on the “verge of breakdown” so eco-friendly schemes are needed urgently (from express.co.uk)


Therefore, this scheme is fundamentally essential to ensure we deforest sustainably. This means we can continue to use wood and manufacture products from wood, however, this needs to be done with environmental consideration. George Eustice will be announcing the England Trees Action Plan on Tuesday, with more information about crucial details, which comes with great anticipation. Although this scheme will come with a great financial expense, this is key to ensure we follow our right path, and also set the way for our global counterparts such as Brazil who need to be doing masses more, to save the planet and establish a well-sustained future for our ‘perfect world.

 

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Written by Euan Taylor

Research compiled by Billy Ryan

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