The UK government should force big polluters to pay for the planting of 100m trees a year to tackle the climate emergency, the Committee on Climate Change said on Thursday.
The committee also recommended banning the burning of grouse moors and sale of peat compost to protect the nation’s bogs, which can store huge amounts of carbon.
This comes as the CCC publishes its Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK report, where it presented a wider range of options to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint.
The committee said the protection and restoration of nature was a vital part of the plan to bring down emissions and tackle climate change.
It also proposed cutting red meat eating by 20%, with the move to more plant-based diets freeing up a fifth of all farmland for new woodland.
“It is some way short of the 80% or so reduction that’s recommended by the public health guidelines for red meat,” said Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC.
The government’s plans to increase tree planting rates up to 30,000 hectares per year, across the UK, by 2025.
The plan would cost £1.4bn a year but provide benefits of at least £4bn by cutting global heating and air pollution and improving flood protection and green spaces for people to enjoy.
The CCC said in the report that there should be levies on fossil fuel suppliers, airlines and other carbon-emitting industries to pay for the costs of the programme.
The cost would be about £700m a year, Stark said. “You could imagine a world where that was all paid for from a fossil fuel levy, but that is a decision for the Treasury.”
Lord Deben, chair of the CCC, said: “This is one of the most important reports that we have ever produced because a change in land use is absolutely essential if we’re going to meet [the legal] requirements of reducing to net zero by 2050. It requires immediate government action. We are in a race against time.”