The Tree Strategy sets out Hampshire County Council’s approach to increasing and connecting woodland areas, green’ corridors and networks across the county. It will supplement and connect existing sites through group tree planting, to create a county-wide ‘Hampshire Community Forest’.
The County Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019 committing “to develop an action plan to provide a meaningful and effective set of measures to ensure that Hampshire moves towards carbon neutrality and greater resilience to the effects of climate change”.
In September 2019 the final report of the Hampshire 2050 Commission of Inquiry was presented to the County Council. Whilst agreeing and delivering the potential actions are a matter for a wide range of partners and other organisations across the county and wider region, the County Council is committed to supporting the overall programme, not least in the area of climate change.
To meet the net zero carbon by 2050 target set by Government in 2019, and fully respond to the declaration of a Climate Emergency and the recommendations of the Hampshire 2050 Commission, the County Council will need to ensure that reducing greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and increasing climate resilience of both our own assets and the wider Hampshire area is central to the work of the organisation and embedded within the delivery of key objectives in all departments. To support this, a climate change strategy and action plan are being developed.
The County Council recognises that working together with organisations, local councils and communities across Hampshire will be vital to successfully reducing emissions and building resilience to the impacts of climate change.
The tree strategy sets out the key principles Hampshire County Council will follow to achieve the target of planting one million trees by 2050 and how it will work in partnership to further increase tree planting and cover across the county.
The strategy will link in with current and emerging policies and requirements around environmental net gain and local nature recovery strategies as set out in the Environment Bill.
To meet increased demand for trees, the County Council will look to expand its capacity; this will also help to ensure that the most appropriate trees are being grown and planted.
Although the strategy focuses on increasing tree cover and connecting areas of trees across the County, Hampshire County Council recognises that other forms of habitat creation and management can also provide carbon sequestration as well as other benefits to local ecology and land productivity. All these options should be considered strategically by services when carbon sequestration solutions are being designed.
Trees play an important role in both sequestering carbon and helping to provide resilience to climate change impacts, for example cooling, shading and flood alleviation. They also have proven benefits in tackling poor air quality by filtering out small particulates.
The average person in the UK is responsible for 5.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year. Although the amount of CO2 a tree will sequester depends on many factors (including the type of tree, where it is planted and the amount of room it has to grow), on average, one broad leaf tree will absorb in the region of one tonne of carbon dioxide during its lifetime. There is also a significant time lag before significant carbon reductions will be realised by trees planted today, with the process of sequestration taking at least 20 to 30 years in some species and others taking hundreds of years to reach a period of maximum carbon fixation.
Whilst the strategy focuses on increasing tree cover and connecting areas of trees across the county, Hampshire County Council recognises that other forms of habitat creation and management can also provide carbon sequestration as well as other benefits to local ecology and land productivity.
The development and early delivery stages of the tree strategy objectives (the strategy was published in 2020) has highlighted the importance of the following success factors:
- Partnership working – a collaborative approach at both the strategic and local level is vital to championing, implementing and sustaining the strategy over the long term;
- Not just about trees – Whilst the strategy focuses on increasing tree cover and connecting areas of trees, this must be seen as part of a wider opportunity to promote other forms of habitat creation and management providing multiple benefits;
- Strategic approach – Local Nature Recovery Strategies, biodiversity net gain, Species Conservation Strategies and Protected Sites Strategies are an important part of an ambitious package of measures being introduced by the Environment Bill to reverse nature’s decline. The tree strategy has a key role to play in helping to link these and more local policy developments together in a coherent and effective way;
- Protecting and maintaining what we have – Existing trees and woodlands are a fundamental component of the landscape and play a critical role in locking up carbon. Valuing our established woods and trees is vitally important to the success of the strategy; and
- Demonstrating leadership – In its estate, in the discharge of its regulatory powers, and in pursuing its discretionary activities, the public sector has an enormous opportunity to create and enable woodland planting from the landscape to the local scale.
Chitra Nadarajah, firstname.lastname@example.org