Tree-planting project aims to directly involve people in the fight against the climate crisis
Some will plant a modest fruit tree in their small back garden while those with more space might plump for a sapling that will, hopefully, grow into a mighty oak.
Over the next year or so every household in Wales is to be offered a free tree to plant as part of a Welsh government call to arms in the fight against the climate emergency.
Lee Waters, the deputy minister for climate change, said the initiative was practical – a good way of getting more trees in the ground – but the aim was also to engage people and fire their imaginations by directly involving them in the battle against the climate crisis.
“Trees are amazing,” Waters said. “They save lives by keeping our air clean, they improve people’s physical and mental health, they are essential for tackling our nature emergency, improving biodiversity and, of course, in tackling climate change.”
The first trees will be available to collect from March from one of five regional community hubs. A further 20 hubs are to be set up across Wales by October 2022 to get trees to people in time for next winter’s planting season. There are more than one million households in Wales so the exercise is a challenging one.
In June the Welsh government held what it called a “deep dive” exercise into trees and timber and concluded a step change was needed to create enough woodland to tackle the climate emergency.
The Labour-led government judges it needs to plant 43,000 hectares (106,000 acres) of new woodland by 2030, and 180,000 hectares by 2050 to meet climate crisis targets. In 2020, just 290 hectares of woodland was planted in Wales and annual woodland creation has not exceeded 2,000 hectares since 1975.
The government argues that planting more trees is not only essential to help avoid catastrophic climate change but will provide a wide range of other benefits, including addressing the nature emergency, mitigating flooding and air quality issues, increasing wellbeing and creating green jobs.
It accepts that the vast majority of new woodland will not be planted by the Welsh government, but by the communities, farmers and other landowners across Wales.
Waters said: “The deep dive made it clear that everyone will have a part to play.” People who live in flats or do not have room to plant a tree can opt to have a tree planted on their behalf. We understand that not all households will be able to plant a tree themselves, but will still be keen to get involved.
“That is why we will make an option that will allow for people to opt to have a free tree planted on their behalf at locations across Wales via the community hubs and volunteers.”
Waters said a consultation would launch early in 2022 on plans to create a national forest for Wales. The government is also planning to work with public bodies to map out land that could be used for tree planting.
The initiative is being supported by Coed Cadw – the Woodland Trust in Wales – whose director, Natalie Buttriss, said: “While tree-planting is only one way to help tackle climate change, it is a simple and enjoyable way for every single person in Wales to have the chance to plant a tree and watch it grow.”