Back from Brussels, I was one of the guests invited to attend a reception in Westminster, hosted on behalf of the Woodland Trust by Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (pictured below with yours truly). With significant changes to agriculture and the environment on the horizon with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, environmental groups are highlighting the opportunity for positive change as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is replaced by a new national agricultural and environmental support system. In a similar vein, the Food Foundation has proposed increasing UK horticulture as part of their drive to support more vegetable consumption (see http://foodfoundation.org.uk/farming-for-5-a-day/).
Neil Parish is a long-standing supporter of The Woodland trust and, when Commons voting finally permitted, gave us what would have been an introduction had the Division timing run as expected! Other Parliamentary speakers in the festively-decorated Members’ Dining Room included Baroness Young of Old Scone, also Chair of the Woodland Trust, and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Baroness Young spoke passionately in support of the value of the “right woodland in the right place”, mentioning specific benefits from trees on climate change mitigation, flood defence, mental health, biodiversity and biomass.
This is the second environmentally-themed Westminster reception I’ve been to in the last few weeks (see the ‘Down to Earth’ post below on the Sustainable Soils Alliance event) and the Secretary of State has spoken at both. On this occasion, Mr Gove advocated more tree planting, supported the Woodland Trust’s defence of ancient woodland and acknowledged this generation’s responsibility for planting for our successor generations. He described the UK’s current level of woodland cover as “pathetically small” and also listed a number of benefits of trees including their function as carbon sinks and the part they play in providing habitats to support “popular fauna species and possible future re-introductions”. Referring to “beauty and poetry in a landscape rooted in trees”, he told the audience that the 25-year environment plan due for release in 2018 is likely to have more detail on the subject of trees.