Landowners needed to support plan to plant 7 million trees

17 November 2021

  • The White Rose Forest Action Plan 2021-25 sets out tree planting targets for North and West Yorkshire over next four years.
  • Appeal to landowners and farmers across Yorkshire to plant more trees.
  • The Action Plan was launched today at the Leeds Arium where over half a million trees a currently being grown by Leeds City Council for the White Rose Forest.

Seven million trees, the equivalent of 4,900 football pitches or 3,500 hectares, could be planted in North and West Yorkshire over the next four years as part of an Action Plan launched today.

The White Rose Forest Action Plan 2021-25 sets out how tree planting can be accelerated across the region over the next four years to build up to a sustained annual target of approximately 3,000 hectares per year from 2025 onwards.

Beyond 2025, research undertaken by the partnership suggests that North and West Yorkshire has the capacity to increase tree canopy cover from 11% (recorded in 2018) to 19% by 2050. This would mean planting approximately 160 million trees over the next 29 years.

The UK Government has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and tree planting is currently the most effective method we have to remove carbon from the air. The White Rose Forest partnership therefore commissioned the United Bank of Carbon team at the University of Leeds to scientifically assess how much CO2 could be removed from the atmosphere through tree planting across North and West Yorkshire. The results suggest that if we increase tree cover to 19%, by 2050 931 kilotonnes of CO2 could be sequestered annually, equating to 50% of the remaining residual carbon emissions within the region.¹

The White Rose Forest is supported by a partnership of experts from the Forestry Commission, national park authorities, local government, charities, community groups and businesses in North and West Yorkshire who have all contributed to the Action Plan. The Action Plan is backed by increased funding for tree planting within the White Rose Forest following the launch of the Government’s Nature for Climate fund in 2020.  

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, helped to launch the White Rose Forest Action Plan today at The Arium in Leeds, where over half a million young saplings are currently being grown by Leeds City Council for the White Rose Forest.

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “When I was elected, I pledged to do everything in my power to tackle the climate and environment emergency. Last month, I launched the West Yorkshire Climate and Environment plan to set out how we will transition to a net zero carbon economy by 2038.  

“The importance of trees for our environment, the wellbeing of our communities and the future of our planet cannot be overestimated. This was underlined by the recent global commitment to end and reverse deforestation at the UN COP26 climate summit. 

“With the funding and expertise now available via the White Rose Forest partnership, we have never been in a better position to plant more trees here in North and West Yorkshire and enjoy the huge benefits they provide.” 

The White Rose Forest team is available to provide a wide range of expert planning, funding and planting support and would like to hear from any landowners or farmers who are interested in tree planting on their land. As set out in the Action Plan, the White Rose Forest can now provide a wide range of funding options for projects of all sizes in North and West Yorkshire.

Guy Thompson, White Rose Forest Programme Director, said: “There has never been a better time to plant trees thanks to the competitive funding and support now available for landowners and farmers. The White Rose Forest partnership is here to support all landowners in North and West Yorkshire.”

“The White Rose Forest Action Plan is ambitious because we need to respond to the climate emergency. As a community forest, our local communities are at the heart of everything we do. Every tree planted in the White Rose Forest will benefit communities across North and West Yorkshire, from helping prevent flooding along river valleys to improving the air we breathe.”

Cllr Derek Bastiman, North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive Member for Business and the Environment, said: “Working in partnership across West and North Yorkshire enables us to create the plan for the White Rose Forest at the scale necessary to have a significant impact.

“We’re setting ambitious targets, but I am confident that the public and landowners, whose participation is essential for the White Rose Forest to reach its potential, will embrace the opportunities and benefits afforded to combat climate change and support the diversity and sustainability of the natural world, which is so important to our daily lives and the economy of North Yorkshire.”

The launch of the White Rose Forest Action Plan 2021-25 took place at The Arium in Leeds, which is the largest local authority nursery in the country with capacity to grow over 3 million plants per year. With increasing demand for locally grown saplings, Leeds City Council is now looking at how The Arium can support more White Rose Forest projects.

To read the White Rose Forest Action Plan 2021-25 please visit


About residual emissions and the United Bank of Carbon report on Informing a carbon-based tree planting strategy for the White Rose Forest

¹ Residual emissions are the sources of greenhouse gases that are the most difficult to eradicate and are likely to remain in 2050 after decarbonisation. Currently, we think it is possible to get emissions down to around 11-21% of what we produce now. Carbon sequestration, particularly through tree planting and woodland creation, will be key to tackling these last sources of carbon to reach net zero. 

The report also highlights that:

  1. If emissions reduction pathways are followed then trees planted now across the White Rose Forest region can make a significant contribution to reaching net zero in 2050, in addition to the other benefits provided by forests. 
  2. New woodland creation in excess of 2800 hectares per year across the White Rose Forest region is likely to be required to sequester up to 50% of residual CO2 emissions in 2050. 
  3. Trees outside woodlands comprise around 40% of the canopy cover in the White Rose Forest region, taking up almost 360 kilotonnes CO2 annually (equivalent to around 2% of 2018 emissions). 

The full research report from the United Bank of Carbon (UBoC), commissioned by the White Rose Forest partnership, is available on the UBoC website:

About The Arium, Leeds

The Arium is Leeds City Council’s state of the art plant nursery with a café, shop and play area. It is the largest local authority nursery in the country and can grow over three million plants per year. Four growing zones are used to grow 500 different species of plants. Each of these zones can be separated and managed independently from one another, enabling us to grow all of our plants in their optimum environment.

The Arium currently supplies bedding plants, wildflowers, bulbs and containerised planting as well as growing over 500,000 trees for woodland creation across the city and beyond to help combat climate change. The Arium is an environmentally friendly building, using rainwater harvested from the 19,000sqm glass roof to keep crops well fed. All waste products created in the planting and growing processes are managed on site prioritising a re-use policy. Leeds City Council is engaging in talks with White Rose Forest partners and local private landowners with a view to growing and supplying more trees. For more information visit:

About the Nature for Climate Fund

The Government is aiming to least treble tree planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament, reflecting England’s contribution to meeting the UK’s overall target of planting 30,000 hectares per year by the end of this Parliament.  This recognises the role trees can play in combating climate change and delivering a range of environmental and social benefits. 

Trees are at the forefront of the Government’s plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, to help to bend the curve of biodiversity loss and to create thousands of green jobs while better connecting people with nature as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The England Trees Action Plan, supported by an intended £500m from the Nature for Climate Fund, is a once in a generation plan to help achieve this vision. We will see an unprecedented number of trees planted, protected and managed to deliver more for society, nature, the climate and the economy.