You can help protect the climate and restore nature by doubling tree cover in your area. This guide explains how to get your council to grow more trees in your neck of the woods.

16 Jan 2020

Why double tree cover in your area?

We need to double tree cover in the UK to tackle the climate and ecological emergency. Right now, woodland cover in the UK is only 13%, compared to an EU average of 35%.

Your local council can play a vital role in doubling tree cover. Councils collectively own 1.5 million acres of land in England and Wales and influence how land is used across your area. 

Several councils – including Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, Hackney and South Gloucestershire – have already committed to doubling tree cover. Can you get your council to follow suit?

Start off by getting your local group to campaign to double tree cover. Show them our series of beautiful short films about trees, presented by Dan Snow. And then get them fired up with this brilliant video about natural climate solutions by Greta Thunberg. 
   

What’s the level of tree cover in your area?

What percentage of your local area is covered by woodlands? To help you find out, Friends of the Earth has analysed Forestry Commission data on UK woodland cover and broken it down by local authority area (download this Excel spreadsheet).

Tree cover, which also includes street trees, is a measure of the total area of land covered by tree canopy (leaves, branches and stems). For a rough estimate of total tree cover in your area, check out Friends of the Earth’s postcode tool.
 

How to work with your local councillors

Here are the top four things you can do to engage your local councillors:

  1. Send your local councillors our new briefing about how to double local tree cover. It outlines the benefits of trees and shows how councils can find the money and land to plant and maintain them.
     
  2. Ask your local councillors to introduce a council motion to double local tree cover. There’s a template motion they can use in the councillor briefing. Feel free to personalise it for your area.
     
  3. Organise a face-to-face meeting with a local councillor to discuss the issue. 
     
  4. Find out which council cabinet member is responsible for trees – and ask that person to commit to doubling local tree cover.        

Enter your postcode here to find your councillors’ contact details. Confusingly, some areas have more than one council that could influence tree cover. We recommend engaging your lower tier councillors (e.g. district, borough and city councillors) first and then engaging with the higher tier councillors (e.g. county councillors and combined authorities) afterwards.

We’ve noticed that councillors often avoid saying whether they support doubling tree cover. They often talk about short-term, small-scale tree planting initiatives. But that’s not enough. We need them to make a long-term commitment to double tree cover.
 

How to spread the word in your community

In addition to engaging with your local councillors, it's also important to create public pressure to double tree cover.

Here are some tactics you can use to build support for doubling tree cover in your community.

  • Create a petition of local residents. For example, over 1,000 people have signed a petition by Oxford Friends of the Earth to double local tree cover.
    • Friends of the Earth can provide your local group with a digital campaigning tool called Action Network to create your petition.
    • You can then spread the word about the petition by sharing it on social media, running a stall or hosting events like talks, woodland walks or screen these great videos about trees by Dan Snow and Greta Thunberg
       
  • Organise an open letter of key organisations and individuals in your local area, which could include local NGOs, community organisations, faith groups, MPs and local celebrities.
     
  • Get local press coverage for your campaign. For example, you could tell your local newspaper about your petition or open letter. Check out Friends of the Earth’s guides on how to create a media strategy, write a press release and give a media interview.
     
  • Get creative! Feel free to organise your own stunts  to raise awareness about the campaign. Let us know your ideas, so we can share them with other groups.
    • A local group in derby has plans to make sustainable wood bracelets for people who support the campaign.
    • Could you make a video or street performance that tells a story about trees? (For inspiration, check out the eye-catching performances of climate activist group ‘BP or not BP’ that raise awareness about fossil fuel sponsorship of art institutions.)
       

Additional resources

  • Council policy can be complex and confusing so we’ve created a more detailed briefing for local campaigners about getting your council to double tree cover.
  • We also wrote this briefing for councillors about how to double tree cover.
  • For more information about how to protect local trees and hedgerows, read our briefing on Tree Preservation Orders.

If you have any feedback or questions about the campaign, please email us at trees@foe.co.uk.

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