It’s tree planting season, what are you waiting for? Join in with the Cambridge Canopy Project
Dr Matthew Ling, project lead for Cambridge City Council’s Cambridge Canopy Project, writes for the Cambridge Independent on how you can help tackle climat change.
If you happen to need a reason to persuade yourself that planting a new tree in your garden is the right thing to do, you are in luck, as there has never been a better or more fitting time to get involved.
On Sunday (October 31), the latest United Nations Climate Change Conference (‘COP26’) is convening in Glasgow, with world leaders looking to accelerate action to tackle climate change. The headline goal of the conference is to ‘secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach’.
Planting a single tree now is a simple and cost-effective action you can take to contribute towards achieving this global environmental goal, and to our own Cambridge City declared climate and biodiversity emergency commitments.
Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) launched its latest report which seeks to assess the state of our climate. The findings of this assessment show that the Earth’s climate is changing at an unprecedented rate.
The impact of these changes for cities like Cambridge may mean that urban heating (known as the ‘urban heat island effect’) could increase, and flooding from intense rainfall events could become more frequent. However, the report also states that ‘strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide... would limit climate change’.
Planting more trees in our towns and cities can help with this by lowering atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and helping to achieve the UK’s ambition of being a net-zero carbon emitter by 2050.
Given the changes that our climate is experiencing, as set out in the IPCC report, it is a necessity of our towns and cities to adapt to, and mitigate against, climate change to the greatest possible extent. So called ‘green infrastructure’ approaches are a multifunctional and cost-effective way of delivering this adaptation and mitigation.
Many green infrastructure elements already exist in our towns and cities – features like mature trees, parks, hedgerows, flower beds, and drainage ditches – and these should be protected and enhanced.
Supplementing these with modern features like green or living walls and roofs, rain gardens, and permeable paving will help to accelerate this adaptation and mitigation. Tree planting is a form of green infrastructure which you can implement in your garden – and the sooner you plant, the better, as all green infrastructure will take time to mature to the point where it is capable of delivering its maximum potential benefits.
In May this year a major tree planting initiative was launched by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II – the Queen’s Green Canopy. This initiative intends to mark the occasion of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 by creating a legacy of increased tree cover across the country.
This will honour the Queen’s reign and leadership and will provide a lasting legacy of benefits for future generations. The Queen’s Green Canopy invites you to ‘plant a tree for the jubilee’ and then to pin your tree to the Queen’s Green Canopy map. Cambridge City Council will be planting a semi-mature elm on Queen’s Green during March to celebrate the occasion.
A further tree planting initiative was launched by the BBC’s Countryfile programme in November 2020, called ‘Plant Britain’. This is a two-year project which seeks to encourage the planting of 750,000 trees across the whole of the UK ‘to help combat climate change and at the same time boost our wellbeing and wildlife’.
This initiative also has an interactive map for all new trees that are planted to be added to. At the time of writing, the total number of trees added to the map is nearly 500,000. With your help, the target number will successfully be reached and perhaps surpassed.
All these tree planting initiatives share a common goal: to increase tree canopy cover and the supply of benefits they provide, primarily focusing on combatting climate change. This is also the goal of the Cambridge Canopy Project – Cambridge City Council’s green infrastructure investment pilot, under the Interreg 2 Seas ‘Nature Smart Cities’ project – which seeks to make the city more climate resilient, particularly to excess urban heat and climate-related flooding.
The project aims to increase tree canopy cover in the city by two per cent - increasing from 17 per cent to 19 per cent. To achieve this, 16,000 additional trees need to be planted across the city; 2,000 of these are being planted on public open spaces – you may have seen one appear near your home or work.
Another 1,500 trees will be given away to residents for free through engagement schemes like Free Trees for Babies and our Neighbourhood Canopy Campaign. But an additional 12,500 trees need to be planted on privately-owned land, like residential gardens, as this is the dominant land area type in the city – making up more than three quarters of all land.
If you have planted a new tree in your garden in Cambridge, please add it to the ‘Cambridge Tree Map’ and tag it with #CambridgeTreeChallenge. If you are not able to plant a new tree in your garden, you can now sponsor the planting of a new tree in one of the city’s streets or parks through our partnership with Trees for Streets.
Planting a single tree in your garden, or sponsoring one in a street or park, will help to grow Cambridge’s broader urban forest which is made up of all the trees across the city, regardless of ownership. Every new tree will contribute to realising the goals of the IPCC, COP26, the Queen’s Green Canopy, Plant Britain, and the Cambridge Canopy Project - and each will help in our collective mission to combat climate change.
Get involved and do your bit – and don’t forget to add your new tree(s) to each initiative’s map!
The Cambridge Independent’s Plant a Tree Campaign
The Cambridge Independent is campaigning for more native trees to be planted at suitable sites in Cambridgeshire through its ongoing Plant A Tree campaign.
We’re highlighting ways you can help, and celebrating projects across our region.
If you’re planning a community tree planting project, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org