What are your plans for our trees?

It’s now over six months since our Parliament declared a climate and environment emergency, but no plan to address this has been made. I want my MP to take decisive action, and ensure natural solutions are used to tackle the problem.

Native woods and trees are home to more than 25% of our most threatened species. They capture and store carbon in vegetation and soils, tackle pollution, fight flooding and provide shade.

On top of the vital role woods and trees play in combating climate change and restoring and protecting nature, they bring a wealth of benefits to our lives and communities - woods and trees make us happier and healthier.

To get my vote, I want you to make some simple promises:

  1. More trees: a major uplift in native tree cover backed by more funding, including for restoring and managing our woodlands for the future.
  2. Better protection: protection for our irreplaceable ancient woodland and trees, implemented right across government. Protection should apply to major infrastructure projects like HS2.
  3. Action on climate change and nature: world leading environmental legislation, governance and funding to fight the nature and climate emergency.

If you are elected you could help create a UK rich in woods and trees, harnessing nature’s potential to store carbon and create havens for wildlife. Our oldest and most valued trees and woodlands need a secure future, and we need a major uplift in tree cover through planting and natural regeneration. This must be backed up by stronger environmental legislation and accountability and the resources required to make a real difference.

Answer:

First of all, although Parliament voted to declare a climate emergency during an opposition day debate when most Conservatives were not present, this has no impact on the policy of the Government which has not declared an emergency and does not even have credible plans to meet its own inadequate target of eliminating net carbon emissions by 2050.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto calls for bold action on climate change, including planting 60 million trees per year. However as a Cornwall Councillor, I have already shown my support for the Cornwall Climate Change Action Plan which aims to make Cornwall carbon-neutral by 2030, including planting an 8,000 hectare "forest for Cornwall" in multiple sites across the area.

It's also important to remember that some types of land are better suited to tree planting than others. Peat bogs and even pasture land can lock up huge amounts of carbon in the soil, and taking land out of use for food production can lead to increased food miles or even deforestation elsewhere, so we must think carefully where all these trees will be planted.

Finally, we must consider what will happen to the trees when they reach the end of their lives. If they are simply used as fire wood, we cannot simultaneously claim that they have offset other carbon emissions elsewhere. I think trees are great, but they must not be used as a way to fiddle the figures on unrealistic action plans. Currently each person in the UK emits around one tonne of carbon dioxide every five weeks through their consumption of fossil fuels. An average tree takes 100 years to lock up the same amount of carbon. To cancel out our carbon emissions through tree-planting alone, we would have to plant and maintain sixty billion trees in the UK!

Personally I am also opposed to HS2: I think this money could be put to better use upgrading and electrifying the current train lines, especially the Penzance to Paddington route (with a more storm-proof alternative to Dawlish).

Finally, high environmental standards often come at a cost, so it is important to get other countries to move in the same direction at the same time to avoid the environmental harm simply being relocated. This will be much harder to achieve if we don't manage to stop Brexit.

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