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Fury at plea to afforest half of the UK’s uplands to help tackle climate change

Farm groups in Scotland and Wales have hit out at a suggestion to afforest half the UK’s uplands to help tackle climate change.

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Fury at plea to afforest half of the UK’s uplands to help tackle climate change

Farm groups in Scotland and Wales have hit out at a suggestion to afforest half the UK’s uplands to help tackle climate change.

 

The recommendation was made by Peter Stevenson, chief policy adviser at Compassion in World Farming, who also suggested some upland land currently used for grazing could be given over to peatland restoration in future.

 

The proposal has been met with anger in the devolved nations, where industry bodies have pointed out blanket afforestation would ‘completely neglect’ the financial needs of hill farms and the rural communities surrounding them.

 

Speaking at an Agroecology All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting in Parliament this week (July 1), Mr Stevenson said: “Climate change is going to dominate, rightly, our thinking [in future].

 

“Maybe we are going to have to accept, and I am thinking aloud here, particularly in Scotland, in the uplands, part of the least good land in terms of pasture may have to be given over to afforestation and peatlands because of its storage capacities, but another half of it must stay.”

 

NFU Scotland vice-president Martin Kennedy, a hill farmer from Highland Perthshire, said Scotland’s iconic upland farms were essential to enhancing the land’s natural carbon capture and maintaining sustainable economic activity.


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“In addition to capturing carbon, extensive grazing also provides varied habitats which allow for biodiversity to flourish,” he added.

 

In Wales, FUW president Glyn Roberts said replacing upland areas where species are reliant on grazing livestock with trees had already happened in vast areas of Wales, with ‘catastrophic consequences’.

 

“However, there is definitely a conversation to be had about agroforestry, which may enhance agricultural production while improving sustainability,” he added.

 

“Unfortunately, unfounded attacks on agriculture and concepts such as rewilding have often polarised the debate and replaced the sensible discussions we need to have about conservation, communities and agriculture being inter-related.”

 

Dr Julia Aglionby, of the Foundation for Common Land and Uplands Alliance, added: “The uplands is a complex and diverse place, providing multiple benefits from the same land, so broadbrush statements such as let’s plant half the uplands over-simplify the situation.


“What we need is the right tree in the right place, planting on deep peat for instance releases rather than stores carbon.


“Looking at commons, we know many blanket bogs are sequestering carbon while being grazed, enabling upland farming businesses to produce food and cultural landscapes while mitigating against climate change.”

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