Labour's pledge for two billion trees comes under scrutiny

28 November 2019, 11:09

Jeremy Corbyn has been attending a climate rally in Southampton
Jeremy Corbyn has been attending a climate rally in Southampton. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Labour is pledging to plant two billion more trees by 2040 and create ten new national parks in a bid to tackle the climate crisis but the announcement has been met with criticism from experts.

Jeremy Corbyn told a climate rally in Southampton that he is committed to spending £3.7 billion for "planting programmes" and "habitat restoration programmes" if he wins the election.

He also promised 10 new protected parks by the end of Labour's first term in power.

These are likely to be in the Malvern Hills, Chiltern Hills, Lincolnshire Wolds, the North and South Pennines, coastal Suffolk and Dorset, the Cotswolds and Wessex.

However, in order to plant the pledged 2 billion trees over the next 20 years, 100 million trees would have to be planted per year, two million trees per week.

Analysts said this would mean 300,000 trees would have to be planted in the UK every day, or 200 per minute.

Experts in forestry say a huge project of tree planing is needed in the UK if there is to be any chance of reaching a carbon zero state, but that Corbyn's plan will be "no easy task".

However, they also said it could be feasible with careful planning "to get the right trees in the right places".

Labour estimates the programmes would help create 20,000 of the one million green jobs it has pledged as part of its "green industrial revolution".

The party also said £1.2 billion of this green transformation fund would be spent on restoring natural habitats including woodland, grasslands, meadows, peat bogs and salt marshes in England.

A further £2.5 billion would be available for tree planting in national parks and in the National Forest.

The plans are currently only focused on England, however the Labour leader said he wants to work with the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure "nature recovery networks" across the UK.

Launching the "plan for nature" in Southampton, Mr Corbyn said the Labour party are the only party for the environment.

He told the rally: "We'll expand and restore our habitats and plant trees so that we can create natural solutions to bring down emissions and allow our wildlife to flourish."

"Labour created the first national parks, and we'll create 10 more, giving people the access to the green spaces so vital for our collective wellbeing and mental health."

The promise comes after the Liberal Democrats pledged to plant 60 million trees every year, equating to 1.2 billion by Labour's 2040 deadline.

The Tories have pledged around half of that amount.

Commenting on Labour's announcement, Friends of the Earth tree campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: "This is by far the most ambitious tree-planting pledge we've seen from a political party.

"Tree cover in the UK needs to double as part of the fight against climate breakdown and this means adding three billion new trees, and fast.

"If sustained, Labour's promised tree-planting rates would achieve this by 2050. While parties have been racing to make bigger trees pledges, it's crucial to remember that trees will only help fix the climate crisis if emissions cuts happen at the same time."