The Forest of Marston Vale - COP26 –what can we do?

With COP26 - the United Nations Conference on Climate Change – taking place in Glasgow right now you’ll be hearing a lot of talk on the news and in the media about how countries plan to tackle climate change.

Climate change is the greatest risk facing us all. The world is currently not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and - if we continue as we are -temperatures will carry on rising, bringing even more catastrophic flooding, bush fires, extreme weather, and destruction of species.

In addition to efforts to transition to clean power and reduce ongoing emissions now is the perfect time to shine a spotlight on one of our key missions and how this can help achieve our climate goals: tree-planting!

Trees have never been a more important ally in helping us to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. As they grow, they absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the major greenhouse gases that contributes to climate change.

Trees absorb CO2 through their leaves and convert it into energy through a process called photosynthesis. This energy is then used and stored for a long time within the branches, wood and roots of the tree and surrounding soils.

Collectively, the UK’s woodlands remove around 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere each year, and around one billion tonnes are locked up in our forests. As well as driving down emissions at source, planting new trees can play an important role in supporting the UK’s efforts to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Other natural habitats, such as peatlands, wetlands, and grasslands, are also very effective at capturing and storing carbon – so it is really important that we plant trees in the right places, so as not to disturb ecosystems that are already doing a good job in fighting climate change.

As well as planting in the right place, planting the right tree is also vital too. The most effective trees for carbon capture are not always the best trees to plant to benefit our native wildlife, and this must be taken into consideration: since the 1970s, 41 per cent of all UK species have declined, while 15 per cent of species are said to be threatened with extinction.1 A mixture of native broadleaf trees provide tackles the parallel threat of biodiversity loss by providing much-needed places for wildlife to live, feed and breed in.

At the Forest of Marston Vale, we’ve planted over 2 million trees in Bedfordshire already, removing 4,917 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere – that’s the same as the emissions from 2,000 family cars!

As well as fighting climate change and supporting biodiversity, tree-planting has a multitude of other benefits for society. Trees and woodlands also help us to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change – some of which we’re already experiencing now.

During heavy rainfall, the presence of trees can help to slow the flow of water entering our rivers, protecting communities downstream from flooding. Trees also provide shade and have an urban cooling effect - helping to reduce the temperature in cities. Trees also help to prevent erosion from drying arable fields, remove pollution from the air and they improve our own mental health.

Whilst government leaders will spend the COP26 debating the various strategies needed to slash global emissions, for individuals the threat of climate change (and what we can do about it) can often feel overwhelming.

Supporting tree planting, getting involved with planting efforts and even planting your own tree at home is one positive action you can take to do your bit in tackling climate change.

1: The State of Nature report, 2019

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