Defra Launch Tree and Peatland Action Plans For England

The Environment Secretary, George Eustice, has launched strategies for restoring peatland habitat and for the planting and restoration of trees and woodlands to address the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis.

The England Trees Action Plan 2021-2024 sets out the Government’s vision for 12% woodland cover by mid-century, with better protection for ecologically important and ancient woodlands, and greater resilience to climate change. A skilled workforce will also be developed to plant and manage trees and woodlands. The Plan seeks to achieve this by trebling the rate of tree planting by 2024 and spending over £500 million of the £640 million Nature for
Climate Fund on trees and woodlands between 2020 and 2025.

Meanwhile, the England Peat Action Plan recognises the important role peatlands play in addressing the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, alongside trees and woodlands. The plan commits to restoring 35,000 hectares of peatland by 2025 and for all of England’s soils to be managed sustainably by 2030. The Government will also be consulting on banning the sale of peat and peat containing products in the amateur sector by the end of this parliament, and launching a Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme in 2021 to invest £50 million in restoration.

Recognising the potential negative impacts that afforestation may have when planted on peatland, the Government will be developing new guidance for England that will help determine when afforested peat should be restored to bog, and to minimise impacts on peaty soils from tree planting.

The publication of these strategies comes as the Environment Secretary delivered a speech today, where a new species recovery target, to be added to the Environment Bill, was announced. George Eustice also announced steps to take forward recommendations from the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity and the formation of a new Species Reintroduction Taskforce.

CIEEM Past President and current Chair of the Strategic Policy Panel, Dr Stephanie Wray CEcol CEnv FCIEEM said:

Today’s announcement is a hugely important step in the UK path to the COP15 and 26 meetings later this year. I am encouraged to see the Environment Secretary today agree with CIEEM that legally-binding targets for biodiversity restoration are essential if we are going to be able to achieve the requirements of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.  Twenty years passed between the Stern review that explained the huge economic effects of climate change and the legally-binding targets of the Paris Agreement.  It is indicative of the escalating crisis that this announcement on biodiversity follows so hard on the heels of the Dasgupta review. CIEEM looks forward to engaging positively with government and other bodies in ensuring a joined up approach to restoring nature and protecting society from the most damaging effects of climate change.