UK water companies to plant 11 million trees to assist carbon-neutral aims
A host of major UK water companies, local authorities and NGOs have today (15 August) teamed on a new tree-planting initiative that will assist the delivery of a carbon-neutral water industry by 2030.
The UK’s nine major water and sewerage providers, including Yorkshire Water, Anglian Water and United Utilities have committed to planting 11 million trees in order to improve the natural environment across 6,000 hectares of English land.
Original woodland will be restored alongside new projects on land owned by the water companies. Local authorities, The National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and The RSPB are also part of the initiative and will provide owned land as a result. Urban tree planting will also provide health benefits to town or city-based communities.
Commenting on the launch, the Government’s first tree champion Sir William Worsley said: “I welcome this pledge from England’s water companies, who have clearly seen the value in planting trees and acknowledged the vital role they will play in helping us to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
“Trees are carbon sinks, provide crucial habitats for precious wildlife, mitigate flood risk and provide a valuable renewable resource in timber – and I encourage other industries to follow Water UK’s excellent example to ensure we boost planting rates across the country.”
According to strategies outlined by the Committee on Climate Change for the UK Government’s net-zero climate target, UK woodland coverage will need to increase from 13% of land to 17% by 2050.
The Woodland Trust has agreed to work with the water companies to identify and manage sites once the planting programme is developed.
The initiative will create “nature corridors” that improve biodiversity and act as carbon capture sinks. Select companies within the sector have already taken steps to improve approaches to conservation. United Utilities, for example, has already planted 800,000 trees since 2005 and is targeting a further 440,000 in the next five years. Severn Trent has planted more than 500,000 trees since 2015, with plans in place for an extra 250,000 in the next five years. Anglian Water has plans to plant a million trees, hedging plants and shrubs in urban areas, as part of a 25-year initiative.
The companies involved will also commit to ensuring that conservation plans align with the UK Government’s tree planting and habitat programmes. The industry already has plans in place to plant the first 2.5 million trees.
In December 2018, more than 14,000 trees were planted at Ogden Water as part of Yorkshire Water's "big goal" for the environment, which aims to create new "green infrastructure". In total, one million trees will be planted on land owned by Yorkshire Water and leased by the Woodland Trust to enhance the environment and reduce the risk of flooding.
Yorkshire Water’s chief executive Richard Flint added: “As an industry, the water sector is committed to fighting climate change through becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Our ambitious pledge announced today will go a long way to meeting that target, and will also deliver greater biodiversity, improved water quality and better flood protection.
“In recent years water companies in England have made significant contributions towards tackling some of the greatest environmental challenges that we face, and today’s announcement is just the latest example of that commitment to the environment.”
The Woodland Trust's chief executive Beccy Speight recently penned a blog for edie detailing why companies should include tree-planting in their climate strategies. You can read that article in full here.
Friends of the Earth campaigner, Guy Shrubsole, said: “Doubling the UK’s tree cover is crucial in the fight against climate breakdown, so it’s great to see this commitment coming from some of our biggest water companies.
“Large landholders, including water companies, have an opportunity and responsibility to use their land in the best way for the planet. We’re therefore challenging landowners everywhere to reintroduce trees and offering to help them on that journey.”