The Woodland Trust has delivered a major boost for communities across the region by providing nearly £300,000 to ramp up tree planting and help the West Midland Combined Authority (WMCA) tackle climate change.

The funding will be used by the WMCA to establish the West Midlands Forest Partnership which will help partners reach their tree planting targets by identifying ways to coordinate different projects and programmes and complete the largest I-Tree Eco study in the UK.

Prioritising areas in the West Midlands with the lowest levels of urban tree canopy cover, the project aims to identify a minimum of eight sites and plant at least 4,000 native trees.

The regional authority aims to increase the region’s forestry cover from 1.5% today to 13% – the equivalent of planting an additional 5.7 million trees by 2026 – supporting its #WM2041 ambition to be a net zero region within the next two decades.

The funding is one of six awards being made around the UK from the Woodland Trust’s Emergency Tree Fund following £2.1 million of support from Amazon’s Right Now Climate Fund.

The money will be awarded in grants to local authorities across the country, planting 450,000 trees and creating green spaces in local communities most impacted by pollution and with least access to nature.

Cllr Ian Courts, WMCA portfolio lead for the environment, energy and HS2 and leader of Solihull Council, said: “I am a passionate supporter of tree planting both as a critical part of our work to improve our natural environment, but also to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“The WMCA has supported a number of initiatives, including its Virtual Forest platform, that encourages tree planting across the region. Local authorities have also been working hard to reach targets – in Solihull we have been planting 25,000 trees each year with the aim of a quarter of a million within the decade.

“The Emergency Tree Fund, and working with the Woodland Trust, provides an exciting opportunity for us to expand our work through the establishment of a West Midlands Forest Partnership and more engagement with private landowners. We will also be able to roll out the work that the Black Country has undertaken to understand the condition of its trees to the rest of the region.”

The Woodland Trust Emergency Tree Fund is one of the first projects in the UK receiving support through Amazon’s $100 million Right Now Climate Fund. With €20 million committed to projects across the UK and Europe, the fund has been set up to conserve, restore and improve forests, wetlands and grasslands, protecting wildlife habitats, biodiversity and quality of life for communities.

Dr Darren Moorcroft, the Woodland Trust’s chief executive, said the funding would help local authorities overcome barriers which prevent them from taking action, through using trees and woods, to help address the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss.

He said: “With the droughts this year, it has shown us it has never been more important to look at how we adapt to the changing climate in this country.

WM2041 - In January 2020, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) lanched an ambitious discussion document in relation to their target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2041WMCA
In 2020, the WMCA launched an ambitious discussion document about their target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2041

“A key part of this will be planting more trees and protecting what we have for the many benefits they bring – they help purify our air, cool our towns and cities, make land more resilient to combating flooding and enhancing well-being.

“Whilst we can plant and protect trees on our land, we cannot tackle this alone and it needs to be done in a strategic way across large areas.

“This funding, thanks to generous support from Amazon, gets to the heart of the matter by targeting councils. With so many financial strains it can be tough for them to take action in this area. The Emergency Tree Fund will give them the tools to create and plan for more woodland, combining our expertise in unlocking land for woodland creation and management – making a difference to people’s lives on a large scale.”

“The Woodland Trust has a history of science-based and community-focused work that has a meaningful and lasting impact on biodiversity in the UK, which is why we have chosen to support them as one of our first UK Right Now Climate Fund commitments”, said Zak Watts, director of Europe sustainability, Amazon.

“Alongside co-founding the Climate Pledge in 2019 and making a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon by 2040, we are making significant contributions to nature-based nature-based solutions to supplement our own carbon-reduction efforts and help restore and preserve the natural world. We are proud to support the charity’s Emergency Tree Fund and look forward seeing 450,000 more trees planted in local authorities across the UK.”

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