Tories to miss 11m tree planting manifesto promise by vast margin, figures suggest

Ben Riley-Smith
Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, is now in charge of hitting the Tories' tree target - EPA

ATory manifesto promise to plant 11 million trees by 2020 is set to be missed by a vast margin, according to new official figures released this week. 

A report by the Forestry Commission found that less than 2.5 million trees have been planted since the pledge was made at the 2015 election. 

That means the rate of planting would have to double if the Government is to have any chance of hitting its manifesto promise. 

Green campaigners attacked the Government’s planting scheme as “painfully slow” and called for a new strategy on how the target can be hit. 

However Government figures pointed to a increase in tree planting in recent months as evidence the issue was being tackled. 

The Tory election manifesto in 2015 said: “We will ensure that our public forests and woodland are kept in trust for the nation and plant another 11 million trees.” The promise was repeated in this year’s manifesto. 

However today, two years into that five-year period, just 2,283,000 trees have been planted, according to Forestry Commission figures. 

The statistics will pile pressure on Michael Gove, the new Environment Secretary, who is now responsible for achieving the target. 

Doug Parr, Greenpeace’s UK Chief Scientist, said: “Michael Gove’s support for this manifesto pledge is evident but with progress on the ground so painfully slow, it’s time to stop talking about it and instead create a clear strategy to deliver it.”

He added: “Planting trees is one of the most positive and practical things Government can do to leave the UK in a better state for the next generation.

"Trees can help deliver a whole suite of public benefits simultaneously by absorbing climate-warming CO2, helping to combat air pollution in towns and cities, contributing to flood prevention by trapping more water on hilltops and slowing run-offs, and providing habitats for wildlife.

"With the UK still one of the least wooded countries in Europe, it’s time Government made funding available for the natural flood prevention measures it claims to support, and made sure reforms of farm subsidies back tree-planting schemes that deliver public goods."

A Forestry Commission spokesman said: “New woodland planting has increased by nearly 60 per cent since last year and we will continue to support landowners to grow this.

“We have made it easier to apply for our woodland creation grant schemes and are also encouraging large-scale planting through the £19million Woodland Carbon Fund.”

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