For almost 50 years, the Woodland Trust – started around a farmhouse kitchen table in Devon – has been creating special places for nature and people in the heart of communities across the UK. Having established 50m trees since we began in 1972, we now embark on the next 50m. And they are needed more than ever. That’s why I am really excited to be announcing our Emergency Tree Fund to bring trees to the heart of communities across the UK. And our first investment of £2.9m.
It’s going to provide a major green boost for people from all walks of life across the country by providing much-needed funding for cash-strapped, local authorities to plant trees and create green spaces.
The money will make up for a current lack of investment to help local authorities break through barriers to get more trees and woods in the ground, giving more local communities the green spaces on their doorsteps that are desperately needed, and which have shown to be so important for people during the current pandemic.
The Trust is working with 11 authorities across the UK in the first phase of the project and aims to expand the scheme further in 2022.
It forms a key part of our Emergency Tree Plan launched in Parliament last year and recently-announced ambitious aim to establish 50 million more trees by 2025 to help tackle both the nature and climate crises.
This is huge goal and we can clearly do some of this ourselves on our land, but only a small part. The goal has required some new thinking. Building on our years of experience working with local communities, reaching out to local authorities who own land across the UK, seems a natural way to boost our collective ambitions. Everyone should have equal access to nature and it is a cornerstone of all our woods and we want the Emergency Tree Fund to deliver even more. No-one should be excluded.
Sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly, local authorities take the rap for decisions on tree removal or lack of trees. There’s a time to call this out, and we don’t shy away from that. But in the wake of the pressing need to make progress on tree cover, the Woodland Trust has been working behind the scenes to listen to how we may support councils overcome barriers to getting more people access to the benefits that trees provide.
Among the aims of the Emergency Tree Fund, which has come from Trust supporters, including businesses, is to boost green spaces to help with people’s health and wellbeing and to work with communities to plant trees and create woodland soaking up harmful carbon, combating pollution and create detailed tree strategies to meet carbon zero targets.
Glasgow City Region, which will host the COP26 international climate change conference later this year, is one of those receiving funding (£400K). Here, eight councils are coming together to boost urban tree cover. And we know this will unlock even greater change, and no better signal for such an iconic city as it sits in the spotlight of the world’s climate ambitions.
Sheffield City Council is another to be receiving funding (£183,319) as it looks to implement its overhauled tree policy to involve its many diverse communities in planting new trees and protecting others for the future. An example of challenging the wrong decisions when taken and then being prepared to support when the right decisions are made.
Meanwhile, Wolverhampton Council is looking to plant pockets of trees in a range of locations across the city, again benefiting people and wildlife by improving air quality and increasing green spaces.
Enabling councils and their residents to best decide how to improve and expand their own green spaces for the public good is at the heart of this new approach. We know that the nature and climate crises we face are existential threats – two sides of the same coin – which will need a response from every individual, every community. As we continue to grow as an organisation, the positive impact of that growth has been through facilitating others to take action in their areas. The Trust’s Emergency Tree Fund is the next big step -having the power to inspire tree planting and woodland creation like we’ve never seen before - and galvanise the passion and ingenuity of communities enabled by local decision-makers and the Fund so today’s and tomorrow’s neighbourhoods across the UK are greener, cleaner and more prosperous.
Darren Moorcroft, is CEO of the Woodland Trust
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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