The Institute welcomes the England Trees Action Plan 2021-2024 (ETAP) – a much-anticipated, coordinated approach to trees and woodlands in England.
We know that woodland creation is a vital tool for combatting the climate crisis and it is a great strength that the ETAP places as much importance on addressing the biodiversity crisis. Trees will be our allies in addressing both issues, all the while supporting our economy and wellbeing. The £500m committed for woodland creation from the Nature for Climate Fund is welcome but is still woefully short of the amount needed to be serious about increasing our woodland cover, particularly compared to the £3 billion committed to agriculture in 2020.
The manner in which the ETAP was launched today by the Secretary of State arguably dilutes the Plan’s importance, which is unfortunate. The event focussed on woodlands for carbon and nature and made no mention of the critical need for timber and wood products. This ignores the key role wood will need to play in our green recovery.
There are some specific aspects of the Plan where we believe more detail is needed and we are keen to work with government on these areas.
- Skills and standards – our efforts will fail and the risks are high if we do not have the right people with the right skills doing the work. This needs urgent attention to increase workforce capacity, upskill existing professionals and draw people into the sector from education and from other professions.
- Funding – with a plethora of incentives and schemes in development, it is crucial that there is strategic read-across between these and that the available incentives make sense from an applicant’s perspective, or they simply will not be taken up.
- Trees outside woods and urban trees – while it may be tempting in the face of such challenges to focus on large-scale solutions, and we recognise some attention is given in the plan to trees in towns and cities, we urgently need to address how we establish, manage and protect these (not just plant them), given the essential benefits they provide.
The Institute held substantial consultation with our members to produce our response to the England Tree Strategy consultation last year and to feed into our ongoing engagement with Defra. We now look forward to continuing to work with Defra and with our partners across the sector to make the ETAP plans a reality. This way we will enable our trees and woodlands, both rural and urban, and the professionals who manage them, to deliver for society long into the future.
Our Executive Director, Shireen Chambers MBE FICFor, wrote a letter to the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, to express her concerns over the lack of focus at the launch event on the role of trees and wood products in a green recovery.Read letter