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Growing trees draw carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store some of this carbon in wood and in the soilAlthough there are concerns that woodland creation could distract from the need to reduce emissions, increasing tree cover is one of the few proven methods of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and can deliver other benefits. The UK Government has an overarching commitment to create 30,000 hectares (ha) of woodland per year by 2025, and the devolved administrations have their own woodland creation targets, strategies and grant schemes. 

Different stakeholders have differing objectives when creating woodland, which influence decisions on where woodland should be created, how it should be established, and what tree species should be included. Although the rate of woodland creation is increasing, UK targets during the past decade have been missed due to economic, land tenure, values and financing challenges.  

Key Points: 

  • Creating new woodland is widely agreed to be necessary for the UK to meet its 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions target. 
  • All woodlands have the potential to take up and store CO2, produce timber, enhance biodiversity and deliver other benefits, including recreation and reduced flooding. 
  • The amount of CO2 taken up and other benefits or negative effects of woodland creation depend on where and how woodland is established, tree species present, site conditions and management. 
  • Constraints on woodland creation include economic viability, land tenure, cultural values, permanence of land use change and environmental sensitivities. 
  • Incentives for woodland creation include government grants and carbon payments. Support could be increased through private finance for multiple environmental benefits. 

Acknowledgements  

POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including: 

Alisha AnsteeNational Farmers Union* 

Caroline AyreConfor* 

Patrick BeggNational Trust* 

Dr Tom Bradfer-LawrenceRSPB 

Austin Brady  

Dr Mark BroadmeadowForestry Commission* 

Dr Graeme BuchananRSPB 

Dr Paul BurgessCranfield University 

Dr Eduard Campillo-FunolleUniversity of Sussex* 

Graham ClarkeCountry Land and Business Association 

Prof David CoomesUniversity of Cambridge* 

Dr Tom Curtis3Keel 

Ian DanbyBritish Association for Shooting and Conservation 

John DeakinNational Trust* 

Jamie Dewhurst J & A Growers 

Dr Rob FieldRSPB 

Dr Tom FinchRSPB 

Prof Christine FoyerBirmingham Institute of Forest Research 

Dr Alessandro GimonaJames Hutton Institute* 

Ashley HardakerBangor University 

Dr Eleanor HarrisConfor* 

Dr Gabriel HemerySylva Foundation* 

Dr Paul JepsonEcosulis 

Dr Keith KirbyUniversity of Oxford* 

Dr Alastair LeakeGame and Wildlife Conservation Trust 

Simon LloydRoyal Forestry Society 

Prof Robert MackenzieBirmingham Institute of Forest Research 

Suma ManiUniversity of Sheffield 

Dr Robert MatthewsForest Research 

Dr Mike MorecroftNatural England* 

Dr James MorisonForest Research* 

Stuart MorwoodForest Service Northern Ireland 

Dr Joanne NightingaleNational Physical Laboratory 

Dr Rebecca NohlHM Treasury 

Connie O’NeillUniversity of York 

Paul OrsiSylva Foundation* 

Prof Colin OsborneUniversity of Sheffield 

Dr Tim PagellaBangor University* 

Nick PhillipsWoodland Trust 

Ben RaskinSoil Association* 

Prof Jonathan ScurlockNational Farmers Union* 

Guy ShrubsoleFriends of the Earth* 

Prof Pete SmithUniversity of Aberdeen* 

Dr Pat SnowdonScottish Forestry 

Phil StockerNational Sheep Association 

Duncan StoneNatureScot* 

Indra ThillainathanClimate Change Committee* 

Dr Amanda ThomsonCentre of Ecology and Hydrology 

Jon TravisWelsh Government 

James WeberUniversity of Cambridge 

Dr Rebecca WrigleyRewilding Britain 

Alistair YeomansPlant Healthy 

Malcolm YoungSAC Consulting 

* denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing


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