The Woodland Trust responds to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs report into 'Greening the Common Agricultural Policy'.
At the Woodland Trust we welcome the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) select committee's recognition that environmental enhancement through the Common Agricultural Policy is 'beneficial'. Funding through the CAP is going to be vital in delivering environmental enhancements such as tree planting.
As the Trust has highlighted in the past, the United Kingdom is one of the least wooded regions in Europe with 13 per cent woodland cover compared to the European average of 44 per cent. It is therefore crucial, as the EFRA Select Committee argued, to avoid imposing a one size fits all approach across all Member States. In the United Kingdom any new greening measures in the Common Agricultural Policy should be flexible enough to incentivise tree planting in order to address the country's low woodland cover.
The EFRA Select Committee also recognised the potential value of Ecological Focus Areas and recommend that these should be fully integrated with the recommendations in the Natural Environment White Paper.
Currently only those areas of woodland planted using the EU Rural Development funding will be considered to meet the requirements of the Ecological Focus Areas. Many areas of small scale woodland have been planted using local grants, or by the farmer themselves. These woodland areas can have major environmental benefits for farms and the local landscape. It is important therefore that the greening payment should recognise those farmers who have already undertaken positive environmental action.
We believe that Ecological Focus Areas are a means to delivering environmental improvement across Member States. These areas should contribute to the delivery of wider policy objectives being developed within Member States, such as those in the Natural Environment White Paper which stated the UK Government's desire to deliver an increase in woodland creation and enhanced protection for ancient woods.
As the National Ecosystems Assessment demonstrated, woods and trees deliver the highest identified number of ecosystems services including regulating climate, enhancing air quality and water flows, and providing timber and wood products. It is vital, if the UK is to meet woodland creation targets, that the support for woodland planting provided through the CAP retains its financial viability and is attractive to landowners.