Trees and Woodland: Carbon Target

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd March 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner 12:00 am, 2nd March 2017

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

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner

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?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

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?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Conservative, East Devon

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?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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.