By Lucy Siegle
It is hard to overestimate the value of trees. They are carbon sinks that keep us alive. They suck up pollution and soak up water. For more ways in which trees rock, the Trees and Design Action Group has a list in its report, No Trees No Future – an apocalyptic title that highlights their importance.
Yet, although we may profess to love trees, the UK is one of the least-wooded countries in Europe. Woodland covers just 12% of the land. What’s good about trees is that you can always plant more, but we are not too hot at that, either. The planting of broadland species (as opposed to mineral-leaching fast-growing conifers) has halved over the last six years.
In the past decade 100 ancient UK woodlands have been sacrificed to development and agriculture. The Woodland Trust says we need to double our planting rate over the next 50 years. Stand by then for a new Charter for UK Trees, led by the Trust in coalition with campaigners and tree specialists. They hope that the new document will encourage us to pay more attention to trees. Technically the proposed charter is an update, it’s just that it hasn’t been updated since 1217.
Compare this with the French version, considered out of date after 10 years, and it can’t be a coincidence that French woodland cover is around 30%.