Call to plant thousands of trees in fight against climate change
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Thousands of trees should be planted across Cardiff in the fight against climate change and reduce air pollution, councillors have said.
Cardiff council was called on to publish a plan for the mass planting of trees in the city. Trees could be planted in a new ‘public tree nursery’ at Forest Farm, as well as in community gardens and parks.
Trees play a crucial role in fighting climate change, by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They also protect against air pollution and flooding.
But questions have been raised about how elsewhere in Cardiff, trees are allowed to be chopped down like at the Northern Meadows, and new developments like Central Square are mostly concrete.
During a full council meeting on Thursday, January 28, Labour Councillor Iona Gordon said: “Trees are an essential component of our urban ecosystems — they support biodiversity and make our city more attractive to live in, as well as removing airborne pollutants.
“The actions we are taking to limit climate change are intertwined with the need to restore biodiversity and increase the tree canopy in Cardiff.
“As trees grow, they absorb and store carbon emissions that are driving global heating. Planting thousands of trees in our city is one of the biggest and cheapest ways of taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.”
Cllr Gordon put forward a motion calling for details of the plan for mass planting of trees, setting up a new public tree nursery, and to protect areas to walk and cycle along riverbanks and Cardiff Bay. The motion received unanimous support.
But the call to plant thousands of trees contrasts with another decision this week made by the council’s planning committee. Planning permission was renewed for a wood-burning power plant in Splott that would burn 70,000 tonnes of virgin timber each year.
Campaigners opposing the planned power plant said burning wood “emits more carbon than burning coal”, as well as producing harmful air pollutants. Chopping down trees for fuel also prevents them from absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Chopping down trees in Whitchurch was given as an example during the council debate of one area not helping the fight against climate change. Many trees around the Northern Meadows will be felled to make way for the new Velindre cancer hospital.
Conservative Cllr Mia Rees said: “My biggest frustration is that this motion doesn’t match what’s happening on the ground.
“It’s all very well to talk about the importance of the environment, trees and green spaces, but when elsewhere this council is giving the go-ahead to projects which take away green space from communities, I cannot help but feel frustrated.
“In Whitchurch local groups are fighting to keep our special green space: the Northern Meadows. And they are being ignored. This council can’t rally round this motion while completely ignoring and actively working against communities standing up for their green spaces.”
Another example raised was the new Central Square development. Huge new buildings were built opposite Cardiff Central train station, and a new public square, with very few trees.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Joe Boyle said: “I’m dismayed by the biodiversity desert that is the Central Square outside the train station. This was a landmark development that should have been used to propel the city’s commitment to biodiversity.
“If we believe that function can trump the needs of the environment, as I fear the Central Square plaza represents, then we won’t progress — no matter how many poetic references to trees we make. Biodiversity must be integral to our planning and decision-making.”