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UK forestry policy is devolved in the UK. All four countries have established policies for woodland creation, co-financed through the EU Rural Development Programme.

In England, objectives for forestry are set out in the Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement (2013), including an aspiration to increase woodland cover from 10% to 12% by 2060 and Northern Ireland aims to double woodland cover to 12% by 2056. The policy statement recognises the need to make woodland planting more attractive to landowners and attract private investment to fund it, particularly through the development of payments for ecosystem services as set out by the Ecosystems Market Task Force. The Woodland Carbon Task Force has been established to help deliver emissions education by the forestry sector. A policy on when to convert woods and forests to open habitats in England is in place, which includes as assessment of implications for carbon balance in the process of prioritising sites for restoration. The development of a thriving forestry sector, through an industry-led action plan (Grown in Britain), is highlighted as an essential element to achieve woodland planting aspirations and deliver emissions savings in other sectors through the sustainable use of woodfuel as a source of renewable energy and harvested wood products substituting for other materials.

In Scotland, forestry is recognised as having an important role in contributing to emissions reduction targets through carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation is a specific objective of woodland creation. Following on from the 2012 Woodland Expansion Advisory Group review, a target to create an additional 100,000 ha of new woodland by 2022 was set out in the 2013 Low Carbon Scotland Report. This level of woodland creation aims to reduce Scotland’s emissions by around 4.8 MtCO2e in the period to 2027. To complement woodland creation, a framework to better control woodland removal is also in place along with proposals to further increase emissions abatement through greater use of Scottish timber in building construction and refurbishment. (Wikipedia)

Quick Facts

Land use

Total land area
24,193,000 hectares
Area of forest
13.0% of land area
Area of agriculture
71.3% of land area
Area of permanent cropland
0.2% of land area


65.1 million
Population growth
0.8% annually
Rural population

Economics and development

GDP from agriculture
GDP per person
43734.00 USD

Climate change and biodiversity

CO2 emissions
7.10 metric tonnes per person
Threatened animal and plant species
National Restoration Targets
Total restoration target
1,596,700 hectares
Restoration target
200,000 hectares
The UK’s Sixth National Communication and First Biennial Report under the UNFCCC (2013)

Policies and Measures: Agriculture, forestry and land management (p.120):

  • Aspiration to increase woodland cover
    • England: 10% - 13% by 2060
    • Northern Ireland: double woodland cover from 6% to 12% by 2056
  • Scotland:  Increase the area from 17% to 25% by 2050
    • Target: 100,000 hectares new woodland by 2022 (2013 Low Carbon Scotland Report)
  • Wales: create 100,000 hectares by 2030

Progress in achievement of the quantified economy-wide emission reduction target: info on mitigation actions (p.297).

  • Woodland Carbon  Code – objective: increase rate of afforestation by providing assurances over the integrity of  woodland creating projects to mitigate carbon emissions (implemented 2011).
  • Revised UK Forestry Standard – objective: ensure woodland is managed sustainably in accordance with international commitments , to promote proactive management of woodland and mitigate the effects of climate change through woodland creation and SFM (implemented 2011).
  • Grown in Britain – objective: action plan for increasing woodland creation and  the economic utilization of domestic timber  (implemented 2013).
  • Rural Development Programme – objective: grant aid for afforestation (implemented 2007).
The UK’s Fifth National Communications under the UNFCCC (2009)

UK sustainable forestry policy is devolved to the four countries that comprise the United Kingdom. All four countries have established policies for woodland creation, co-financed through the EU Rural Development Programme. In Scotland, climate change mitigation is a specific objective of woodland creation and the Climate Change Action Plan associated with the Forestry Strategy aims to increase levels of woodland creation for this purpose (p.55).

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Country Profiles – NBSAPs, National Reports (5th)
Fifth National Report to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (2014)

Rationale for progress: work to restore habitats and improve ecosystem services at a landscape scale is proceeding throughout the UK. Examples include: 48 new Local Nature Partnerships, 12 new Nature Improvement Areas, Green Networks and Green Infrastructure projects in Scotland (p.72).

Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services (2010)

We will bring a greater proportion of our existing woodlands into sustainable management and expand the area of woodland in England (p.6 and 26).

By 2020 we will have put in place measures so that biodiversity is maintained and enhanced, further degradation has been halted and where possible, restoration is underway, helping deliver more resilient and coherent ecological networks, healthy and well-functioning ecosystems, which deliver multiple benefits for wildlife and people, including (p.12): 

  • better wildlife habitats with 90% of priority habitats in favourable or recovering condition and at least 50% of SSSIs in favourable condition, while maintaining at least 95% in favourable or recovering condition;
  • more, bigger and less fragmented areas for wildlife, with no net loss of priority habitat and an increase in the overall extent of priority habitats by at least 200,000 hectares;
  • by 2020, at least 17% of land and inland water, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, conserved through effective, integrated and joined up approaches to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem services including through management of our existing systems of protected areas and the establishment of nature improvement areas; and
  • restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems as a contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity (2013)

Encourage and support ecosystem restoration and management, especially in catchments that have experienced the greatest degradation (p.11). Restoring the quality, or increasing the area, of some habitats, which past land uses have adversely affected is an important way of trying to recover ecosystem health. Some examples of what we need to do to help us meet restoration targets under the CBD, include (p.18-19):

  • restoration of the hydrological integrity of peatland;
  • restoration of coastal dune systems;
  • restoration of native woodland, montane scrub and near-natural treelines where these
    have been suppressed or eliminated by grazing and burning;
  • expansion of woodland in some catchments;
  •  restoration of riparian and woodland flora where invasive species such as rhododendron
    or Japanese knotweed are becoming dominant; and
  • establishment of saltmarsh in some areas where there is coastal inundation.

The importance of adaptive management, and our need to learn, means we should give extra attention to current projects that are tackling land management through an ecosystem approach at the landscape scale. We need to learn from what works well and share the results widely. In addition, we intend to explore this further through the Land Use Strategy regional pilot studies.

Align habitat restoration on protected areas with national goals for improving ecosystem health, with local priorities determined at the catchment or landscape scales (p.43).

A Biodiversity Strategy for Northern Ireland to 2020 (2015)

Woodlands and Forest Policy: Northern Ireland Forestry – A Strategy for Sustainability and Growth: the Forest Service aims to achieve an increase in forest cover from 8% (111,000 ha) to 12% by 2050.

United Nation Forum on Forests (UNFF) National Reports
Restoration target
461,000 hectares
Voluntary National Report to the 11th Session of the UNFF (2014)

England to increase woodland cover from 10-13% by 2060 (an average of 8,000 hectares/year (376,000 hectares).

Scotland to increase forest area from 17-25% by mid 21st century (an average of 10,000 hectares/year).

Wales to create 100,000 ha of new woodland between 2010 and 2030 (5,000 hectares/year).

Northern Ireland to double the forest area from 6-12% from 2006-2056 (an average of 1,700 hectares/year (85,000 hectares)).

Other (National Strategies and Plans, Rural Development Programs, Natura 2000 areas, projects, and goals)
Restoration target
935,700 hectares
UK – Rural Development Programme (Regional) – Scotland (2015)

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 introduced ambitious legislation to reduce emissions by at least 42 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050. The forestry sector is a carbon sink and sequestered 9.1 MtCO2e in 2011. Climate change is identified in the SWOT as a threat to agriculture and forestry. Forests can also play an important role in carbon sequestration. The area of woodland in Scotland has increased over the last 30 years. However this is in the context of gradual decline of annual woodland planting from around 30,000 hectares per annum in the 1970’s to an average of 5,600 hectares between 2003 and 2013. Our approach to forestry in the new programme will be to increase the area of woodland planting whilst ensuring an appropriate balance is struck between the expansion of native tree-planting primarily for biodiversity and the planting of mixed conifer/native species multi-purpose forests that will deliver a range of benefits including biodiversity and timber production. Agroforestry systems can also sequestrate carbon and increase the productivity from the land. The sustainable forest management of our existing woodland resource is also important (p.77).

Restoring, preserving and enhancing biodiversity, including in Natura 2000 areas, and in areas facing natural or other specific constraints and high nature value farming, as well as the state of European landscapes (p.701-702). Selected indicators are:

  • agricultural land under management contracts supporting biodiversity and/or landscapes: 1,263,000 hectares (target for 2023);
  • forest environmental and climate services and forest conservation – area under forest environment contracts: 200,000 hectares (2020);
  • investments in forest area development and improvement of the viability of forests – areas concerned by investments improving resilience and environmental value of forest ecosystems: 320,000 hectares (2020); and
  • forest/other wooded area under management contracts supporting biodiversity: 535,700 hectares.

Scottish Forest Strategy: extend woodland cover by 100,000 hectares (2012-2022), SFM, encourage native planting and natural regeneration, encourage low impact silvicultural systems (p.248).

Government Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement (2013)

Aspiration to increase woodland cover (p.120).

  • England: 10% - 12% by 2060
  • Northern Ireland: double woodland cover from 6% to 12% by 2056

A stated need to make woodland planting more attractive to landowners. Includes policy on when to convert woods to ‘open’ habitats and an assessment of implications for carbon balance in the process of prioritizing sites for restoration.

UK – Rural Development Programme (Regional) – England. Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (2015)

Restoring, preserving, and enhancing ecosystems related to agriculture and forestry (p.667).

  • Investments in forest area development and improvement of the vitality of forests
    • Agriculture - Afforestation: 12,000 hectares.
    • Forests – areas concerned by instruments improving resilience and environmental value of forest ecosystems: 100,000 hectares (p.690).
Wales Rural Development Program 2014-2020 (2015)

Combination and justification of rural development measures: Woodland creation should form a substantial part of the land use sector’s response to the Welsh Government’s greenhouse gas abatement targets. Around one third of the sector’s greenhouse gas abatement effort is intended to come from planting 100,000ha of new woodland by 2030 (p. 148).

Carbon sequestration is supported by a report prepared for the Welsh Government by the Land Use Sub Group of the Climate Change Commission for Wales. That report examined the options available to the farming industry in Wales regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to meet Wales target of a 3% per annum reduction in GHGs. It recommended establishment of 100,000 hectares of new woodland on intermediate agricultural land in Wales between 2010 and 2030 as part of a mix of measures to 380 abate Greenhouse Gas emissions. The recommendations of this group have been accepted by Welsh Government and are being implemented through a range of measures including the Wales Rural Development programme – and monitored as part of the Climate Change Strategy for Wales (p.379).

UK Low Carbon Transition Plan (2009)
  • 10,000 ha/yr woodland for 15 years (p.160).
  • Forest cover – 6-12% by 2056 (Northern Ireland) (p.192).
  • Forest cover -  10-15,000 ha/yr (sustained planting to 2050 (400,000 ha)) (Scotland) (p.192).
  • Forest cover – 1,500 ha/yr for 3 years (Wales – through Forestry Commission) (p.193).
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