The National Forest Inventory of Great Britain (NFI) provides a record of the size and distribution of forests and woodlands in Great Britain and information on key forest attributes. This information, together with Forestry Commission growth and yield models, is used to forecast softwood and hardwood timber availability.
In 2017 a report providing an estimate of the amount of tree cover outside NFI woodland areas in Great Britain was published. This report estimated that there are 742 thousand hectares of tree cover outside woodland in total, representing 19.4% of all tree cover (both woodland and outside woodland) and 3.2% of land area.
The UK’s forests are a net sink, removing around 21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year in 2015, although the strength of the sink is projected to decline to around 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2030, as existing forests are harvested and restocked.
The UK’s LULUCF Action Progress Report (2016) sets out the relative contribution of afforestation, reducing deforestation, improved management, woodland enrichment and enhanced resilience to GHG emissions abatement, concluding that afforestation has the greatest potential as an abatement measure.
The Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was published in October 2017 and sets out broad aspirations to increase the rate of afforestation and use of timber in construction in an illustrative pathway to meet the fifth carbon budget (2028-32) and longer term emissions reduction commitments. The ‘headline scenario’ includes assumptions that woodland cover will increase by 130,000 hectares in England by 2032 and by 493,000 hectares across the UK, recognising the cost-effectiveness of afforestation in emissions abatement. The role of forest biomass and new ‘energy forestry’ in emissions reduction is also highlighted.
The second UK Climate Change Risk Assessment was published in 2017 and identified six priority risks, two of which are relevant to forestry: risks to natural capital, including terrestrial, coastal, marine and freshwater ecosystems, soils and biodiversity; new and emerging pests and diseases, and invasive non-native species, affecting people, plants and animals. The second National Adaptation Programme (NAP) was published in 2018, with forestry-related actions bridged around four goals for the five year period of the National Adaptation Programme:
(1) Woodland resource is expanded and better linked to enhance its resilience at stand and landscape scale;
(2) Existing woodlands are more resilient to the impacts of climate change and pests and diseases;
(3) Adaptation is embedded within future forestry policy to contribute to long-term reduction of climate change risks;
(4) Woodlands are more resilient to natural hazards.
Climate change adaptation is included in the UK Forestry Standard, which underpins forest certification through the UK Woodland Assurance Standard and the Woodland Carbon Code, and meeting its requirements is a consideration of receiving grant aid in the four devolved administrations.
Resilience and climate change adaptation are at the core of the Science and Innovation Strategy for Forestry in Great Britain, with three of Forest Research’s seven research programmes focusing on different aspects of resilience.
Private sector investment in woodland creation under the Woodland Carbon Code is continuing to increase. The Woodland Carbon Code, launched in July 2011, sets out requirements of voluntary woodland creation projects in the UK wishing to make claims about the carbon they sequester. Companies are able to report verified Woodland Carbon Units to compensate for their gross emissions following the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Environmental Reporting Guidelines and use them in claims of ‘Carbon Neutrality’ as set out in the British Standards Institute’s PAS2060: 2014 Specification for the Demonstration of Carbon Neutrality.
The Woodland Carbon Code has generated much interest among landowners and investors alike. As of 30 March 2018, 239 projects were registered with the Code; together they will create around 16,100 hectares of new woodland and are predicted to sequester around 5.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over their lifetime. Of the 239 registered projects, 156 are now validated and 37 projects are now verified and projected to sequester 713 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over their lifetime.
A proportion of the revenue for each project comes from private sector investment, mainly from companies considering their Corporate and Social Responsibility. Until now, companies have paid in advance for carbon to be sequestered with well over half of the validated carbon being sold in this manner. Case studies of buyers are available on the Woodland Carbon Code website.
2.5 UK Grown Timber Initiatives
Since 2013 the not-for-profit, government backed Grown in Britain campaign has developed and promoted the case for increasing British grown timber. The Grown in Britain programme combines efforts to increase private sector forest/woodland creation and management, grow the British timber processing sector, and encourage the promotion of Grown in Britain branded products in the eyes of merchants, retailers and consumers in the UK. Grown in Britain has over 1 million tonnes of UK timber licensed to use the ‘Grown in Britain’ brand and over 300,000 hectares of trees, woods and forests within the scheme.
Following on from the 2016 Grown in Britain Woodstock report that found that UK grown hardwood sawlog supply has the potential to double to 2050, Grown in Britain has launched an online portal. This is aimed at the non-professional owner and contains a video on valuing hardwoods along with up to date guidance of potential prices for a range of UK grown hardwoods16.