Climate scientist welcomes plans for extra two square miles of trees in Leeds

Plans to create more than 2.4 square miles of new woodland in Leeds have been described as one of the most ambitious in the UK.
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Leeds City Council decision-makers approved plans to spend £350,000 a year planting new trees around the city in an attempt to help combat climate change.

A report, which went before the authority’s executive board this week, set out how Leeds’ parks and countryside department needs to plans 25 hectares of new woodland around Leeds every single year over 25 years – adding up to 2.4 square miles.

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The plans are part of the authority’s wider hopes to have up to 9,000 hectares of new woodland across the city over the next few decades.

Dr Cat Scott believes Leeds is leading the way.Dr Cat Scott believes Leeds is leading the way.
Dr Cat Scott believes Leeds is leading the way.

A climate scientist has described the plans as “ambitious” and thinks Leeds could lead the way when it comes to increasing tree cover, but warned that it would take more than just trees to fix the climate crisis.

Dr Cat Scott, an expert in biosphere climate interactions at the University of Leeds, said: “They end up with this figure because Leeds contributes one per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“To plant enough trees to at least contribute at offsetting this, you would need between 300 and 500 hectares per year.

“These plans are exactly what cities need to be doing.”

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She added that, while Bristol has a similar scheme, Leeds appears to be leading the way in terms of UK cities when it comes to plans for extra woodland.

“I can’t see other cities with higher targets,” she added. “This is an ambitious thing that Leeds is doing – along with Bristol it will be one of the most ambitious in the UK.”

The report which went before Leeds city councillors stated that an estimated 9,434 of the 55,170 hectares that make up the district is covered by trees. It added that if Leeds contributes in line with its current share of national emissions, tree cover would need to almost double.

These particular plans relate to council-owned recreational land, grass verges and grass spaces around social housing – around 4,000 hectares of land, which is managed by the authority’s parks and countryside service. As this represents seven per cent of the total land in Leeds, its own target (as a proportion of the total) works out at 630 hectares – or 2.4 square miles.

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But while she welcomed the plans, Dr Scott warned planting trees was not a cure-all solution to the climate crisis.

She added: “Transport is another problem in the UK – it’s an area that most of our emissions come from. There is a lot we could be doing.”

The plans follow the announcement of a climate emergency by Leeds City Council last Spring, along with a commitment from the authority to be carbon neutral by 2030.