Tree planting efforts in England have failed to meet a Government target, according to figures released a day after the Prime Minister announced a new commitment to tackle climate change.
In the past year 1,420 hectares of woodland was created across the country, falling short of the annual target of 5,000, provisional figures from the Forestry Commission suggest.
While the overall figures for the UK in the year to March 31 are up, that success is down to large increases in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Woodland Trust said.
Theresa May this week announced a legally binding target to end the UK’s contribution to climate change by 2050.
The Government laid out legislation in Parliament on Wednesday to set a new target to cut emissions to “net zero” by the middle of the century.
The statutory instrument will amend the existing goal to cut climate pollution by 80% by 2050, which was agreed by MPs under the Climate Change Act in 2008.
Following the latest figures, Abi Bunker, from the Woodland Trust, said: “The UK needs renewed ambition when it comes to tree planting and woodland expansion.
“The scale of what needs to be achieved to reach net zero targets is obvious; it will necessitate a three-fold increase on current levels.
“Let’s not shy away from the truth. It will be a challenge, it will cost money, it will mean tough choices, but the human race is at a crossroads for our environmental future.
“To avoid climate breakdown we have to act, that’s the reality we live in, tough choices, big challenge, but we can all rise to meet it head on.”
The percentage of woodland cover in the UK remains at 13%, with 10% in England, 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and 8% in Northern Ireland.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Our forest and woodlands are vital for providing timber, reducing flood risk and protecting our wildlife, which is why planting more trees is at the heart of our ambition to protect the environment for future generations.
“This is why we are introducing our new Environment Bill, which will include ambitious legislative measures to take direct action to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age.”