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Money does grow on them! Planting trees could benefit economy by £366 million and create 36,000 jobs

Published: Thursday 08 Jul 2021

Planting trees and other efforts to recover natural destruction have a huge part to play in getting the country to Net Zero and bring a range of other benefits including creating good green jobs, boosting the economy and even cutting crime, says new research published by UK100.

The analysis, conducted by academic researchers with the Place-based Climate Action Network at Queen's University Belfast, looks at the economic benefits of climate action by local authorities.

At an international summit to be co-hosted by UK100 and the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, next week (13 July) mayors and local leaders will call on the government to devolve further powers on energy, transport and housing to meet their Net Zero ambitions. 

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street planting a cherry tree in Walsall Arboretum last December

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street planting a cherry tree in Walsall Arboretum last December

The event will include Alok Sharma, COP President, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and the Mayors of London, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, the West Midlands and Los Angeles.

The group will argue that a clear target must be added to the Environment Bill to reverse the decline in species and habitats by 2030 supported by the appropriate resourcing of Local Nature Recovery Strategies.

The report, an extract of which has been released ahead of the summit, says that a conservative estimate of the economic benefit of a tree ranges from £1,200 to £8,000. Using this model, planting 6,000 trees strategically located across a large English town would provide benefits of £48m over 50 years, or nearly £1m per year.

The cost of an urban street tree starts at around ¬£6 (excluding maintenance). 

The long-term economic benefits accrued over 50 years can be over £8,000 per tree

Planting trees, a useful way to remove carbon emissions out of the atmosphere and prevent flooding, could create 36,000 green jobs during the woodland restoration phase, generating £366 million in added value to the economy.

Investments in restoring and sustainably managing woodland habitats create more jobs per unit of investment than more carbon-intensive sectors such as agriculture, gas, mass transit, aviation and freight rail construction: for every £710,000 ($1m) invested in woodland restoration a total of 40 direct and indirect jobs are created.

Researchers have shown that 25 jobs are created for every 100 hectares of woodland that are restored during the restoration phase. Increasing woodland would support 24,600 jobs across the West Midlands.

In particular, retail and hospitality businesses can benefit from such interventions, sectors that have been hard hit by the pandemic. Shoppers are willing to go shopping more frequently, travel further and visit for longer times in shopping areas with pleasant tree cover.

Consumers in an academic study said they were willing to pay up to 12% more for goods and services in shopping areas with large, well cared for trees.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: We know just how critical tree planting is to tackling the climate emergency here in the West Midlands, which is why we've embarked on our ambitious virtual forest plans to plant a tree for every resident across the West Midlands. Now we know that not only will this help the environment, but also our economy as well

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has ambitious plans for tree planting a ‘virtual forest' across the region including one tree planted for each resident. This equates to more than 4 million trees being planted by 2035 to help deliver the goal of reaching Net Zero carbon emissions by 2041.

Polly Billington, chief executive of UK100, said Money really does grow on trees! Planting trees isn't just good for our environment, it's good for the economy - helping businesses to recover from the pandemic. It is also a way to address environmental inequalities and level up the UK

Poorer areas often have lower canopy cover, and are also disproportionately affected by other environmental issues such as air pollution. Research conducted in London found that tree canopy cover ranges from 58% to 2% across the city's 633 local wards.

Targeting new tree planting in areas of greatest need will help to address this imbalance. A US study found that lower income neighbourhoods and minorities were significantly more likely to live in heat-prone neighbourhoods.

The extract released today focusses on nature-based solutions including:

  • Good green jobs: UK100 analysis of the Government's Nature for Climate fund, which will plant 40 million trees, shows it could create nearly 36,000 jobs in nature-based solutions nationally.
  • The economy: planting trees at the rate recommended by the Climate Change Committee - 30,000 hectares of woodland afforested through capital investment - would generate ¬£366m in added value. An estimate of the economic benefit per tree over 50 years ranges from ¬£1,200 to ¬£8,000. Based on this figure, the Government's ¬£40m investment has the potential to reap a return of ¬£320 billion over the next half century. 
  • Boost to high streets: consumers are willing to pay between 9% and 12% more for goods and services in shopping areas with large, well cared for trees. 
  • Falling crime: for every 10% increase in tree canopy cover there is a 15% decrease in violent crime and a 14% decrease in property crime, even when controlling for other socio-economic factors.

The International Net Zero Local Leadership Summit and Conference will be co-hosted by West Midland Mayor Andy Street and UK100's Polly Billington.

The summit will be attended by more than 30 local leaders, including mayors Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham and a host of other leading figures from across the country, to discuss an enhanced partnership with the government in Westminster to move towards Net Zero.

Amongst those joining them at the summit are Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and Lord Deben, chairman of the Climate Change Committee.

The conference will feature an address by Eric Garcetti, the Mayor of Los Angeles, and also involve an international networking session for local authorities with participants from cities all over the world, including Tokyo, Melbourne and Buenos Aires.

A fully referenced version of this media release is available here.

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