Plans to plant 19 million trees across the West Midlands have been revealed by Mayor Andy Street as the Combined Authority prepares for COP26.
WMCA said these trees would help to address both the climate and ecological emergencies faced in the region and achieve its goal of being net zero carbon by 2041.
Planting trees in large numbers significantly reduces the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and improves our physical and mental health.
The new forestry goals are complemented by a full set of nature plans from WMCA which also involve restoring rivers and creating and improve wildlife corridors along them and create 700 jobs to achieve the objectives.
The initiative is part of WMCA’s bold ambition for the West Midlands - renowned as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century - to become the home of the Green Industrial Revolution today.
It is expected that tens of thousands of jobs will be created as the green industries evolve. The region currently employs 97,000 in the sector.
WMCA is set to promote these plans at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) being held in Glasgow.
West Midlands Combined Authority nature plans - 5 key points
- Planting of 19 million trees across the West Midlands would see forestry increase from 1.5% today to 13% by 2041, which aligns with the long term aims for England.
- WMCA is aiming for 5.7 of these trees to be planted by 2026.
- The Combined Authority has also pledged to restore five wildlife corridors along the River Cole, Rea, Sherbourne and Blythe with all rivers restored to a good condition by 2030
- WMCA is set to support the creation of 200 jobs in natural capital by 2026, and 700 by 2041
- These plans are part of a commitment to give all West Midlands residents access to high quality green space within a 300m walk of their home.
How the West Midlands is set to lead the Green Industrial Revolution
WMCA has highlighted the progress it is already making in its ambitions to lead the Green Industrial Revolution, with the region’s low carbon industries thriving and outperforming many other sectors in the regional economy.
But, unlike the 1700s, it has pledged that this 21st century growth will protect natural resources and reverse damage to the environment.
In the WMCA COP26 prospectus Andy said: “Our goal is to reach net zero emissions by 2041, and we have a clear plan for the first five years, promising to create tens of thousands of jobs in green industries.
“It is no small task – our traditional industries are still some of the most polluting in the country, and the region remains over reliant on carbon-emitting forms of transport.
“But with the right investment, public and private, we can lead a transition to net zero that leaves nobody behind.”
WMCA’s COP 26 prospectus identifies goals for transport, energy, innovation and skills and their #2041 Net Zero Five Year Plan, including nature.
How many trees are currently in Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell?
Here are the number of trees in each area according to the National Tree Map™ Bluesky International Limited and the percentage of canopy coverage by trees:
Birmingham - 1,503,098 - 16.8%
Sandwell - 381,338 - 14.96%
Soihull - 770,404 - 17.49%
Birmingham was made a Tree City of the World in 2020 by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Arbor Day Foundation. Other UK councils with this honour include Bradford, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council in Herfordshire and the London Boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Camden and Ealing.
Do we have to wait for 2041 to benefit from these trees?
WMCA set out its first Net Zero Five Year Plan in March 2021, and is aiming to achieve a 33% emissions reduction by 2026 in order to achieve net zero by 2041.
Low carbon and environmental goods is currently the fastest growing sector in the West Midlands. It had a 7% growth in 2019-20 and is worth £12bn to the regional economy with 5100 companies.
All six of the West Midlands’ higher education institutions have cutting edge research and innovation in low carbon solutions.
WMCA has proudly announced that the region is already a global leader in future mobility, smart energy and energy storage.
Here are the points for each area that the Combined Authority is set to highlight to COP 26:
Future Mobility - The region has utilised its status as a 5G testbed to enable it to become a leading developer of alternative and greener transport methods. The region is also leading the manufacturing of transport equipment for automotive, rail and aerospace.
Smart Energy Systems - The West Midlands is the home of National Grid, EON UK, Co-op Energy and several other energy infrastructure organisations. It is also the home of the national Catapult leading thinking on Energy Systems and the Energy Capital partnership, and is putting innovation into practice with partners across five Energy Innovation Zones.
Energy Storage and Resource Management - The West Midlands hosts the UK Battery
Industrialisation Centre at the heart of a cluster of world-leading companies specialising in battery recycling. It also hosts the National Brownfield Institute and leads the way on circular construction techniques.
What do environmental campaigners say?
A Birmingham Trees for Life (BTfL) spokesperson said: "BTfL has been planting trees for 16-years with thousands of school children, volunteers and communities across Birmingham.
“In 2022 we will be celebrating a wonderful milestone of planting our 100,000th tree.
“So, we understand the utmost importance of planting trees to make the city greener and help reduce the impact of climate change.
“Far too many trees in the city are being lost, some to disease and to age so we need to plant millions more new ones.
“Whether it is a single tree in your garden, a row of ornamental trees along a pubic pathway or a large woodland, every single tree planted will aid, health, wealth, wellbeing, air quality, fight climate change, flooding and support wildlife and biodiversity.
“Trees also bring communities together instilling a sense of pride and legacy.
“In the simplest of terms, every single tree planted counts! So, we welcome every organisation and individual planting trees.
“We all need to fight climate change together and the development of more green spaces in a large industrial city is intrinsic to our health and wellbeing.
“Lockdown has shown us just how important green spaces and nature is and continues to be to us all.”
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