Paul Brannen MEP, Labour's European spokesperson on agriculture and rural affairs has set out how changes in the rural economy can clean up our environment and create jobs. This is the conclusion of his submission of evidence to a new House of Commons inquiry into the future of forestry in England.
In his role as an MEP in the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee Paul Brannen has worked extensively on the issue of forestry across the EU. The aim of contributing to this new inquiry, set up by The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, is to increase employment, fight climate change, improve flood prevention and deliver environmental and health benefits (see below for full document).
Paul Brannen, said:
There are four main reasons to increase forest cover in England. The first is one is the jobs that forestry can create. The potential for growth in jobs alone should be enough to increase the number of trees planted in England. A study commissioned by Confor (link) in 2015 in Wales established that forestry can deliver 60% higher employment than farming. The good news is we have plenty of potential to plant extra trees.
Currently, woodland in England covers just 10% of the total land area, compared with 13% UK wide and 44% across European Union’s Member States. Forestry across the UK already supports up to 50,000 jobs. Increasing the amount of woodland in marginal agricultural land as well as increasing production in existing forests could add to that number.
Secondly, trees currently absorb around 10% of EU carbon emissions. However, according to a recent study published by the European Forest Institute, this contribution in the EU 2030 climate and energy framework can be as high as 22% of all EU CO2 emissions, provided that forest management in the EU is optimised.
Thirdly, forests play a crucial in providing an important recreational area for people which are credited with their positive impacts on physical health (primarily by improving air quality) and mental health and in flood prevention.
And fourthly, woodlands also contribute significantly to country’s floodwater management through increasing water retention in soil. If planted according to a plan that takes into account growth characteristics of trees, soil type and quality as well as the specificity of the terrain, trees can significantly reduce topsoil runoff and slow down floodwaters, particularly in the uplands. Following the devastating winter floods of 2015 and 2016, various UK politicians have called for increased tree planting efforts in order to improve flood defences in England.
Forests can be really beneficial and I look forward to an increase in forest cover which has the potential to create jobs, improve air quality, improve people's health and prevent flooding.