The government has ‘zero chance’ of reaching its tree planting targets, the UK’s forestry trade body has said.
The UK government pledged in 2019 to reach 30,000 hectares (115 sq miles) of new planting by the end of 2024.
During the financial year spanning 2021/2022 just under 14,000 hectares (54 sq miles) were planted.
The target of 30,000 hectares is equivalent to between 90 million and 120 million trees per year, depending on the density of the planting.
The Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor), which represents 1,500 UK forestry businesses, said in a statement there was “zero chance” of the government fulfilling that pledge.
“This is a total policy failure in both economic and environmental terms,” said Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall.
“Report after report has shown that increased tree planting and wood use is vital to meeting the UK’s net zero targets – yet this is not being translated into trees in the ground,” he said.
The government’s tree planting target is part of its pledge to reach ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050. Trees sequester carbon from the atmosphere, helping to limit global warming.
Mr Goodall said Scotland had planted three quarters of all the UK’s new woodland. He described the figures for England, Northern Ireland and Wales as “woeful”.
Defra said in a statement the government was currently on track to meet the target but acknowledged there was there was “more to do to stay on our ambitious trajectory”.