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UK Falls Short of Tree-Planting Targets, Missing a Forest the Size of Birmingham


The United Kingdom has significantly undershot its tree-planting targets, with a shortfall equivalent to an area of woodland larger than the city of Birmingham. This revelation comes from a recent analysis conducted by Carbon Brief, an independent climate policy research organization.

Targets and Shortfall

The UK government had pledged to plant 11 million trees in England by the end of the current Parliament, which concludes in 2024. However, the analysis found that only 6.8 million trees have been planted to date, resulting in a shortfall of 4.2 million.

Furthermore, the government's ambition to increase woodland coverage in England by 12% by 2060 is also falling behind schedule. Currently, woodland covers 13% of England's land area, and the analysis suggests that it would take until 2087 to reach the 12% target at the current rate of planting.

Reasons for Shortfall

The report identifies several factors contributing to the shortfall in tree planting, including:

  • Land availability: Suitable land for tree planting is scarce in England, particularly in urban areas where there is high demand for development.
  • Competing priorities: Other land-use objectives, such as agriculture and housing, often take precedence over tree planting.
  • Lack of funding: Tree planting is a long-term investment, and there is insufficient funding available to meet the ambitious targets set by the government.
  • Bureaucratic hurdles: The planning process for tree planting can be lengthy and complex, discouraging landowners and developers from undertaking planting projects.

Consequences of Shortfall

The failure to meet tree-planting targets has significant environmental and economic consequences. Trees provide a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Carbon sequestration: Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, mitigating climate change.
  • Biodiversity: Woodlands support a wide range of plant and animal species, enhancing biodiversity.
  • Water management: Trees regulate water flow, reducing the risk of flooding and improving water quality.
  • Air quality: Trees filter pollutants from the air, improving air quality.
  • Economic benefits: Tree planting can create jobs and support local businesses.


The analysis concludes by offering recommendations for addressing the shortfall in tree planting:

  • Identify suitable land: Explore options for planting trees in urban areas, such as parks, rooftops, and along streets.
  • Prioritize tree planting: Make tree planting a higher priority in land-use planning decisions.
  • Increase funding: Provide adequate funding to support tree-planting initiatives, including grants and incentives for landowners.
  • Streamline bureaucracy: Simplify the planning process for tree planting to encourage participation from landowners and developers.
  • Foster partnerships: Collaborate with environmental organizations, businesses, and local communities to implement ambitious tree-planting projects.

By implementing these recommendations, the UK government can accelerate tree planting, reap the environmental and economic benefits, and contribute to its climate change mitigation efforts.

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