Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
WEDNESDAY 13 JANUARY 2010
Mr Mark Broadmeadow, Mr Pat Snowdon, Mr Mike Townsend
and Mr Richard Smithers
Q200 Earl of Caithness:
Would the Habitats Directive be working in the opposite direction?
Mr Smithers: I am not sure about that. The UK
has taken a fairly minimalist approach to the designation of special
areas of conservation in the Habitats Directive. The areas that
have been designated are strictly limited to the areas of prime
interest in the UK. We have not designated areas as suitable for
restoration; we have not designated buffer zones. You could say
that the Habitats Directive is constraining in so far as it is
demanding that these areas are kept in a particular condition.
With climate change species are moving and habitats are changing.
Importantly, the Habitat Directive, Article 10, very specifically
encourages Member States to develop their Natura 2000 suite of
sites, special areas of conservation, into a functional network.
There is the opportunity under Article 10 to follow that through,
to link up our woods across landscapes through trees across the
farmed landscape in a way that enables our biodiversity to survive
and move in response to change. We are not truly taking that opportunity
in a major way right now. It comes back to many of the things
we have already talked about in relation to the funding and the
limited uptake of the options. I think one can see the Habitats
Directive as an opportunity as much as a constraint.
Mr Broadmeadow: If I could clarify the point
about the Habitats Directive it is dependent on how it is implemented
in ensuring flexibility and, the comment as Richard has pointed
out, allowing Member States to identify how they will do it. It
was very much looking at species level if it is implemented without
flexibility rather than looking at a more habitat-based response,
allowing the climate and the changing ranges to come out, as inevitably
Q201 Viscount Brookeborough:
To move on to financing, you have said a certain amount but it
may be that you just wish to say a little bit more. What level
of public funding would you like to see directed to the adaptation
to climate change of forestry across the EU over the next five
to ten years? Perhaps you would like to comment on research, maybe
not on the value but the type of research and where it is not
adequate. Secondly, what is your view on the possible sources?
You have mentioned market based mechanisms and public/private
partnerships, financial products, auctioning revenue from emissions
trading. How else might the adaptation of EU forestry to climate
change be financed in the future?
Mr Smithers: Your question is in two parts.
How long is a piece of string? I have already said that Pillar
2 is very small compared with Pillar 1 and of Pillar 2 money just
over ten per cent goes to forestry. We are, as you gathered, not
unique but quite
Q202 Viscount Brookeborough:
Do you include the money for research in that? That is done through
Mr Smithers: That would be from other sources,
yes. We have already made the point that the UK is extraordinary
in a European context. What measures are good for Europe in terms
of woodland cover are not necessarily adequate for the UK. With
44 per cent average woodland cover across Europe and with our
12 per cent in the UK, we actually need very different measures
Q203 Viscount Brookeborough:
In your view, what is the target percentage?
Mr Smithers: We as an organisation would like
to see native woodland cover doubled. In terms of the overall
percentage of woodland cover, native woodland only forms a small
part. We are not talking of an enormous increase. We are talking
of perhaps a four per cent increase in woodland cover if it were
just native woodland. Of course others will wish, quite rightly,
to increase woodland cover for other reasons.
Mr Townsend: In relation to the second part
of your question about other mechanisms, I think some of this
goes back to the issue of information and advice. There are some
measures which in the short term have benefits so in a sense they
may need funding to overcome initial barriers. An example would
be on farm energy production where it is the capital cost of equipment
which is often the issue and not the production of timber itself.
I think we are broadly in favour of the idea of market-based mechanisms,
provided they can be adopted in a way which is both efficient
and effective. In other words, that they are lower cost than simply
providing public funding and they do what it says on the label.
In principle we would be in favour of that. Again, examples might
be links between insurance risks downstream and land use upstream,
trying to think about ways in which to link those two elements
together. The other area where we do have some support is the
whole idea of conservation banking, of taking money from development
and pooling it and using it in a much more strategic way for mitigation
measures beyond the area of the development. I think there are
opportunities, it just needs imaginative thinking.
Mr Snowdon: My short answer to that is we need
to look at every possible avenue of funding. That is the reality.
The Read Report for example sets out quite an ambitious future
for forestry in terms of its potential and if that was ever to
be achieved then, as Mark said earlier, obviously public funding
and rural development programmes are important components, but
we are going to have to look much more broadly at more innovative
mechanisms funded using private sector funding, for example. That
is not something we can do immediately. We have to think about
what those mechanisms might be. There have been some interesting
examples from local authorities across the country on how they
have managed to plant some degraded areas of land, using savings
from landfill, as one particular instance. There are some interesting
things that some local authorities are doing to increase woodland
cover. On the private finance issue, carbon markets are talked
about frequently these days. It is quite a complex picture. Forestry
is not part of the compliance markets under the current Kyoto
Protocol, but there has been a significantly developing voluntary
market in carbon which forestry can participate in. I think the
key issue there is standards. We need to think carefully about
setting up markets and the Forestry Commission with the stakeholders
is looking at setting up a code of good practice for forest carbon
projects, so that we can provide confidence in the market place
that woodland projects deliver what they say on the tin, in terms
of mitigation and adaptation benefits. We do need to think seriously
about private finance and we need to look at innovative mechanisms
Q204 Viscount Brookeborough:
There may be something in the quality of the environment but as
we get warmer, as timber grows faster, the quality of the timber
is going down itself. Our timber in Northern Ireland grows much
quicker and therefore it is only wood pulp because it does not
have the density that it might otherwise have. You mentioned the
profitability of it in the future. We grow very few trees but
some. We have been told about the profitability of it and it has
always been tomorrow and the price has only risen something like
ten per cent in the last 25 years, so maybe your predictions,
hopefully, will be good. Secondly, the advice. When we talk about
access to advice, maybe the situation is different here from Northern
Ireland, but our Forestry Service is co-located with the Agricultural
Office and it is quite easily accessible. I think somebody said
that maybe the Forestry Commission does not have much of an outreach.
I think with us it does, but you still have the problem of getting
people into it in the first place. You have not mentioned land
values. Land values are significant in that, for us in Ireland,
our land values are twice as much as yours over here. If your
land values are going up, this is going to have an effect in persuading
people to go into itthe profitability of farming or whateverand
that is the way that land values are going. When you mention that
the rest of Europe is really a different case and a different
type of forestryand it is; you only have to drive through
Germany and see their beech forests, they do not appear to have
the same sort of rough woodland that we might have and the Woodland
Trust might managehowever, the Republic of Ireland is very
similar of course. The Forestry Service over here does have a
target for increasing forestry and we have a graph here and, dare
one say it, since the early nineties it has not had a very impressive
performance. Not a lot has changed in grants; I know you said
it has changed a little bit. Just as a matter of interest, in
the Republic of Ireland, their grant system at the moment is 100
per cent of fencing, preparation and stocking of new plant, but
they have taken all the granting out of re-establishment of old,
felled ground. They are also giving an annual premium for it as
well. Do you think the money is available? Do you not think there
is an argument for doing something like this? They are going to
achieve their target of 17 per cent of forestry cover from a lower
level than the UK as a whole in about 2020 and it is working.
Money is the crux of it when it comes to a farmer. If you give
me the money, I will plant trees without a shadow of a doubt.
Mr Broadmeadow: I think recent changes may turn
this round a little. In England, for priority areas an additional
payment of about £2000 per hectare is available for woodland
Q205 Viscount Brookeborough:
What are these changes?
Mr Broadmeadow: There is close to a doubling
of grant aid for woodland establishment.
Q206 Viscount Brookeborough:
Which is what percentage, because it is a matter of the percentage
at the end?
Mr Broadmeadow: It is not 100 but the grant
aid has gone up from about £2,500 to £4,000 per hectare.
It is based on standard costs. That may be enough to produce some
movement but certainly experience in the National Forest, which
is a very good example, indicates that it is likely, if you want
to get a step change in woodland cover as has been achieved in
the National Forest, then you do need payment of probably getting
towards £10,000 a hectare. That point was made in the UK
Low Carbon Transition Plan. That is where I think private finance
may well come in, potentially on the back of carbon markets.
Q207 Viscount Brookeborough:
We have talked about pests and diseases and these would appear
to be very difficult to have accurate research on because of the
effect not just of climate, but of the changing pattern of that
climate. In the Republic of Ireland, they have an allowance for
pests in that if you get an over 30 per cent kill rate from weevils,
it is funded. Any chance of that?
Mr Broadmeadow: At EU level there is no funding
for action to prevent pests and diseases. That point is made in
the EU forest response to the rural development regulation. 
Q208 Viscount Brookeborough:
There is follow-up support. It is not just about establishment
because, especially if farmers know nothing about it at all, if
you do not come up front with what can happen, then the experiences
related from one farmer to the next will be disastrous on a small
Mr Broadmeadow: Following up on the evidence,
one point is that where the EU can contribute hugely in the forestry
sector is on monitoring, both on the growth and performance of
forests but also on pests and diseases. That is a critical area
where, because you have the experience of the EU, you will get
a much better picture of the impacts of climate change as they
unfold than you will from much smaller regions.
Mr Townsend: Just adding to the issue about
pests and diseases, I think we would feel very strongly that biosecurity
in the UK needs to improve. Sudden Oak Death came in on infected
nursery stock. There is massive movement, particularly of large,
container-grown plant material around Europe and beyond, which
offers a potential source of as yet unknown pests and diseases.
I think forest biosecurity is important.
Mr Smithers: You raise quite a number of issues.
One I would just like to come back on very swiftly is carbon.
The Read Report that we have heard about identified that, if 23,000
hectares of woodland were created annually for the next 40 years,
by 2050 it would be sequestering ten per cent of our projected
carbon emissions at that time. The Read Report was about assembling
the evidence. It was not about suggesting mechanisms and in terms
of carbon, although it is held up as this great hope for finance
and for achieving these sort of increases in woodland cover, the
evidence right now is that it is not going to happen. We have
the Forestry Commission, as Mark has said, developing a code of
practice, but that code of practice we do not believeand
nor do many otherswill be the key to unblocking the barriers.
There are other things that Government could do but equally we
do need to see UK forestry offsets in an international arena being
Q209 Viscount Brookeborough:
Is the ability of forestry in lowland twice as much as the ability
of forestry in the uplands for sequestering cover? There must
be a difference because there is such a difference in growth rate.
Do you have to plant twice as much in the lowlands to achieve
what you might have achieved in the uplands or is it three times?
Mr Broadmeadow: It is not that level of difference,
if you match the species well to the climate and if you use good,
improved material, if you are looking for commercial forestry.
It is probably one and a half times the area, but certainly as
you move to the lowlands you probably would not be looking for
single-objective forestry. You would be looking for multiple-objective
forestry for the biodiversity benefits because I think that is
the beauty of forestry. It is a productive land cover that brings
a lot more alongside if it is well designed.
Mr Snowdon: This is an interesting point about
the future of carbon markets. Richard is right. There are major
challenges there. A code of practice is not the only answer but
it is an important step because we need confidence in the market
place in what woodlands could deliver. There are much wider issues
about how forestry is treated at international levels, in carbon
markets and what companies are allowed to claim as part of their
greenhouse gas balance, their carbon balance if you like. There
is quite a lot of demandspeaking to one or two companiespotentially
for woodland creation projects funded through the private sector
mechanisms if they would get the credit for this. When I say "credit"
I mean in a rather non-Kyoto sense in terms of being recognised
for their contribution. It is quite a complex picture and we need
to work on different fronts.
Finally, did anything come out of the Copenhagen discussions or
any thoughts of financial incentives for mitigation in forestry?
Is there anything to your knowledge?
Mr Snowdon: There was progress on finance at
international level in terms of funding to developing countries.
I am not aware of anything directly affecting the domestic situation
Mr Broadmeadow: Significant progress was made
on the new LULUCF
negotiations giving a stepping point for further negotiations
over the coming year.
Q211 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe:
I think a fair number of my questions have been touched on already
about developing the knowledge base. You just referred then to
some additional work that could be undertaken at EU level. Are
there any other areas where you think that Europe-wide research
could be undertaken?
Mr Broadmeadow: I think we have a lot to learn
from other countries. I do think the inter-reg programme, which
is putting research into practice to some extent, is a good opportunity
for countries to share experiences and to bring adaptation into
action based on real practice, rather than hypothetical research.
I do think that is a good opportunity.
Mr Townsend: I would agree. I think much of
the evidence on adaptation of temperate farming systems for instance
comes from outside the UK and northern Europe. Quantifying some
of the system service benefits for UK agriculture and UK forestry
would be helpful in terms of strengthening our case.
Q212 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe:
The Woodland Trustyou touched on this earlierin
paragraph 10 notes that a lack of knowledge transfer is an obstacle
to effective adaptation of forestry to climate change. I noted
that when we got your paper back in the autumn when we were embarking
on this you talked about forestry practitionership engaged with
the public to contribute to societal understanding and responses
to climate change. Everybody talks about the problem of communication,
but it is very difficult indeed to put a finger on the positive
actions that should be taken to try to remedy some of these deficiencies.
Could you make some helpful suggestions for us in these areas?
Mr Townsend: The reason there is a problem is
because it is difficult, I suppose. Again, I think it is a matter
of everybody taking a degree of responsibility for ensuring that
communication happens. I come from a background in the forest
industry and we tend to keep ourselves to ourselves. It is the
nature of foresters, to some extent. I think we do need to look
beyond our traditional audiences and the people we would have
spoken to in the past and start thinking about other audiences.
That includes agriculture. It includes the general public. It
includes local authorities particularly, I think, who have responsibilities
in a number of the areas we have talked about. I do not have a
silver bullet, I am afraid, but I think there is a general and
shared responsibility to communicate these benefits more widely.
Mr Smithers: If I could take that even further,
there is a need to promote understanding right across Government.
There are enormous benefits to be had in terms of health, and
the whole range of goods and services need to be communicated,
and we need to involve other parts of government in the development
of the evidence base so that they truly have ownership and understanding
over it. One of the areas that is of particular concern is that
an awful lot of money has been spent on assessing the potential
direct impacts of climate change but far less has been spent on
considering the indirect impacts of climate change, the impacts
of one sector adapting to climate change and its impacts on another
sector. For woodland, that could present as at least as great
a threat as the direct impacts of climate change. The need to
engage other sectors is profoundly important.
Mr Broadmeadow: Mike made a throw away comment:
"It is difficult." Perhaps it is the crux of the matter.
If you go to an assemblage of forest managers and forest owners
in any region, they are desperate for information. They are generally
aware of climate change impacts but they want prescriptive information
on how to adapt their existing woodlands. That is not possible
because we do not know exactly what the climate will be. That
makes it look as though we do not have the information. We have
as much information as the level of uncertainty for the climate
projections can give us. It is a question of getting the message
over that they are the experts. "It is getting hotter and
drier in the south. Think what you would do if you were a bit
further south in a hotter, drier climate and that is probably
about right". It is trying to put the information back into
the forest managers' hands and to let them make the decisions
based on good knowledge, because if you go down a single route
you can guarantee you will end up with disaster. There needs to
be a broad range of responses I think. It is back to that communication
Q213 Earl of Caithness:
Would you not agree that, so far as commercial timber in this
country is concerned, we have a pretty bad worldwide reputation?
We have been using the wrong techniques. We are teaching badly.
Farmers, as Lord Brookeborough has said, have been conned. We
are terribly good at planting trees in straight rows only for
the wind to come and blow them over because they are the wrong
yield class and the wrong timber. I can take you to thousands
of sites around Scotland where the Forestry Commission has led
us into disaster. Should we not start again? Forestry is not easy.
Forestry is very difficult. Trees die. They have to be looked
after. There is weed control. There is fencing control. There
is a whole lot of problems that farmers are not used to and are
not used to looking at that length of timescale. The finance structure
is relevant. Is not our whole basis of doing forestry in this
country totally wrong?
Mr Snowdon: I do not think anybody would deny
that there was afforestation, the two World Wars in particular,
which, if you were to look at it now, you might say you would
do differently. I think it is really important to point out the
huge advances that have been made in UK forestry in terms of its
sustainable forest management practices. This is something it
is recognised for across the world. I think the reputation of
forestry in that sense has changed. There have been huge advances
made. The UK forestry standard, as Mark mentioned, sets out the
minimum standard, for forest management in sustainability terms
and in terms of economic, social and environmental criteria. There
has been a large programme of certification through the UK Woodland
Assurance Scheme. There have been significant advances in recent
decades and the basis of forest policy now has moved from one
based initially on having a strategic supply of timberyou
may know this already; I apologise if somulti-purpose forestry.
Climate change is the latest addition to that.
Mr Broadmeadow: Indeed, I think climate change
will have a real effect on changing the face of forestry. As part
of the UK forestry standard, we have now drafted Climate Change
Guidelines to give guidance on what is appropriate practice. That
points to diversification. It points to understanding more about
the soils which I think over the last 30 years we have thought
less about. It is in effect coming back to real forestry and knowing
how to grow trees. It is also accepting that you might go for
something of lower productivity to make sure you have a diverse
range of species for pests and diseases; for unforeseen impacts
of climate change. At the same time, we may also move to more
natural systems of forest management again to address the threat
of climate change.
Q214 Earl of Caithness:
Is the Forestry Commission being brave enough to move to a situation
where any grant is dependent on there being no clear felling so
we have continuous, uneven-aged, mixed woodlands?
Mr Broadmeadow: Not at this stage, but the climate
change guidelines do point to continuous cover systems of management
as likely to be more resilient to climate change.
Q215 Earl of Caithness:
Who in this country can teach uneven-aged, mixed woodland management?
I only kneow of one person. I declare an interest. He was my ex
and late father-in-law who had an amazing type of woodland like
that which was highly profitable, much more profitable than the
normal yield cast straight-row timber. We do not have people in
this country who can teach that type of forestry which we are
going to need.
Mr Broadmeadow: There is the Continuous Cover
Forestry Group that is promoting this and they have some wonderful
woodlands, albeit few and far between.
Mr Townsend: It is a style of management which
we are beginning to adopt in terms of forest restoration. Certainly
in Wales there are one or two people who are particularly keen
on continuous cover forestry. Just to come back to your earlier
point, one of the problems of being a forester is that your mistakes
live with you for many years. Certainly I think most in the forest
industry would recognise that there were mistakes made in both
the seventies and early eighties. In so far as forestry represents
delivering sustainable goods and services to society, we have
to look to what society needs now and I think that has changed
significantly in the last ten years. The way that we approach
what we are doing now has also changed. We are focused around
biodiversity and access but we recognise that society requires
a whole load of other things from woods, forests and trees. I
think it is trying to adapt our management now to deliver those,
including timber, but also including all these wider benefits.
That is the challenge for us.
Q216 Earl of Caithness:
Somebody needs to pay the landowner.
Mr Townsend: Absolutely. Somebody needs to pay
the landowner to do it.
I have one last question and I will make it brief. It is really
about the role of the EU. The UK has the Climate Change Act 2008
promoting an extensive range of activities and policies to deal
with climate change. That is the same in the rest of the Member
States. I think, Mr Broadmeadow, you touched on this at one point.
What do you think the EU can bring to this EU-wide? What can it
bring in addition to what Member States are doing?
Mr Broadmeadow: I do think it is being able
to look in a consistent way across the whole of Europe to see
what practices there are elsewhere and to monitor the impacts
of climate change. I would see those as the two key roles, but
there is also exchange of best practice. One point that is made
in the White Paper is using more natural approaches in the urban
environment to adapt to climate change. I think some of the best
practice that does take place elsewhere in Europe can be replicated
here and that may indeed be looking towards continuous cover forestry,
which is practised extensively in Germany and other countries.
Do you think the White Paper has an adequate framework in it for
Mr Broadmeadow: At this stage, I think yes.
We would welcome that, but clearly we would like to see more detail
on some of the specific instruments and measures that are mentioned
in the White Paper.
Mr Townsend: I think we would agree with that.
At this stage, we think it is adequate. There are a number of
issues which are clearly pan-European. The issue to do with movement
of biodiversity for instance is an EU-wide issue and I think many
issues around water quality, air quality and food security are
European-wide issues and therefore they need to be in this broader
framework so that national strategies make sense within that.
Chairman: Thank you very much. We thank you
all for coming and giving evidence. Thank you for making it through
the weather. We appreciate that.
4 Note by witness: Basic establishment grant
is £1800 per hectare; an additional amount of £2000
is now payable in priority areas. Back
Note by witness: Specifically, the point was made by the
EU Standing Forestry Committee's opinion on forestry measures
in Rural Development, 22 July 2009. Back
Land use; Land-use, Change and Forestry. Back