Why doubling UK tree cover will help stop climate chaos - Friends of the Earth

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

Nature is the ultimate carbon capture and storage machine. That’s one reason we should double tree cover in the UK, says Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth's chief executive.


Interviewed in 2019, Craig stated that to see runaway climate change and ecosystem collapse as separate issues is artificial. Both are symptoms of humanity’s failure to respect and live fairly within environmental limits.


He believes we have no hope of stopping climate change unless we can restore the abundance of nature. And we have no hope of stopping the crisis in biodiversity unless we tackle climate change and – more to the point – the root causes of both.


He also said that to avoid runaway climate change and achieve net zero emissions (removing as many emissions as we produce) we need to stop burning fossil fuels, power our world on renewable energy, promote energy efficiency, decarbonise transport and so on.....But we also need to restore the abundance of nature and its ability to regulate the climate and store carbon. That’s not just about stopping the loss of nature – including deforestation in the tropics – but also reversing that decline.


New trees campaign


In 2019, Friends of the Earth launched a campaign to double tree cover in every region of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They want to encourage tree planting (right trees, right place), but also rewilding  and lots of natural regeneration of our native trees.


They are doing so partly because of what it will do for wildlife, air quality and wellbeing (studies show that trees are good for people’s mental health).


But they also launched this campaign because doubling the number of trees could deliver annual carbon sequestration of around 37-50 MtCO2e (million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) per year. That’s equal to around 10% of the UK’s current greenhouse gas emissions.


Trees will be their focus, but we’re hoping to stimulate a much wider debate about why restoring nature is essential for tackling climate change.


Nature is the ultimate carbon capture and storage machine. The fastest and cheapest way for Britain to suck carbon out the air would be to double tree cover, restore our peatlands and wetlands, restore fish populations in the North Sea to their historic levels, and end the chemical warfare in the countryside that has led to the catastrophic collapse of insect and bird populations.


Friends of the Earth believe If we did this – as well as stopped burning fossil fuels, reduced meat consumption, and switched to 100% renewable energy – we might have a chance of avoiding runaway climate change and bet healthier and happier too.





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