News

Welsh language concern as companies buy farms for tree planting to offset carbon emissions

14 Jul 2021 4 minutes Read
Rural Ceredigion. Picture by Llinos Dafydd

An MP has raised concerns for the Welsh language following reports that international companies are buying hundreds of acres of land in mid and west Wales for tree planting.

Ceredigion MP Ben Lake said that farmers have recently reported that whole farms, as much as 300 acres, have been purchased by major international companies to offset their carbon footprint.

He said that such developments could “allow rural communities and the Welsh language to be undermined for the sake of a greenwashed business-as-usual”.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Plaid Cymru member called instead for regulated tree planting that shows sensitivity to local biodiversity and communities.

He said that “large companies are already purchasing vast tracts of agricultural land in the upper Teifi and Tywi valleys for forestry and carbon offsetting and are doing so in a manner that internalises financial gain and externalises the social, economic and cultural costs”.

“Those costs increasingly pose an existential challenge to Welsh farmers and rural communities and are inimical to efficient land use and a just transition,” he said.

‘Undermined’

Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth Anne-Marie Trevelyan responded by suggesting that Ben Lake speak with the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to discuss funding that could go to communities to offset the costs.

“I endorse and agree with the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts), and share their passion for all those nature-based solutions, which are critical to helping us to sequester carbon from trees to peat,” she said.

“I am a particular advocate for peat restoration across Northumberland, for obvious, biased reasons.”

Speaking before the debate, Ben Lake said that while tree planting had a crucial role in addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis it should be regulated to avoid “unintended consequences” for rural communities.

“Tackling climate change should not be an opportunity for large companies to greenwash their emissions while continuing to emit millions of tonnes of CO2,” he said.

“To be successful, tree planting projects must have local control, with rural communities working alongside the Welsh Government so that they benefit from this transition. We must not allow businesses to buy farms, allow rural communities and the Welsh language to be undermined for the sake of a greenwashed business-as-usual.”

‘Benefits’

In an oral statement in the Senedd yesterday, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, said that Wales needed a “step change” in woodland creation.

He said that he had spoken with representatives of the many groups with an interest, including farmers, foresters, environmental NGOs, timber processors and house builders about how best to go about creating new woodland.

“The deep dive has identified a number of actions to improve our engagement with communities and make it easier for them to navigate interactions with local authorities and NRW, which can often appear complicated and restrictive,” he said.

“We will also be working with public bodies to map land they own to proactively identify where more trees can be planted.

“It is vital that we work with, and learn from, the farmers and other landowners in Wales who will need to plant many of these trees. We need to demonstrate the benefits that planting trees can have alongside other farming activities, both from a financial and social perspective, while avoiding planting on the most productive farming land. This includes not just planting new woodlands but also ‘hedges and edges’, such as trees along field boundaries, scattered trees and shelterbelts.

“There are some excellent examples to learn from, including the Stump Up For Trees project in Brecon, a project led by farmers in consensus with communities to plant trees on unproductive land, to create new sources of income whilst protecting our communities in the longer term.

“We need many more examples like these, so I am establishing a new working group to urgently consider models to attract investment in woodland creation without disrupting existing communities and patterns of landownership.”

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
3 months ago

What on Earth is going on here now? Close the schools, sell the land offshore, rampant house loss…get a grip you lot in Cardiff!

Chris
Chris
3 months ago

In fairness the farmers are not having their farms taken from them. They are selling them. For money. Rather trees than golf courses (which are known to attract entitled English retirees)
BUT

  1. Are these lands accessible to the public? If no, why not?
  2. Are they planting native trees which bring value to the land, or are they just more quick growing acidic Canadian Pine, like that which blights every hillside outside of SE England?
Last edited 3 months ago by Chris
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris

In a way they are, if you trash the economy of farming thanks to what happens in Westminster…see Oz etc…

‘What about’ the future of a self-sufficient free Wales !

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
3 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Sadly I am sure the UK government would be happy to replace Welsh farmers with trees, thus undermining the Welsh language even further and making Wales even more of a holiday park for richer English people. The trade deal with Australia will not worry them. We need to control Wales ourselves. Cymru am byth 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

j humphrys
j humphrys
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Do you mean Sitka Spruce?

Chris
Chris
3 months ago
Reply to  j humphrys

Possibly. Are they those biocidal acidic b’stards that have smothered so many of our mountains and churned up so much of our heritage, so that the wealthy from “over there” could dodge some tax?

j humphrys
j humphrys
3 months ago

Prepare to speak Mandarin.

Last edited 3 months ago by j humphrys
Gill Jones
Gill Jones
3 months ago

Da iawn Ben. Rwyt ti’n iawn, bydd y cynllun hurt ‘ma yn erydu ein cymunedau gwledig a’n iaith. Diolch am ddod a hwn i’n sylw.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
3 months ago

Is this the future for us? Being sold off just to enable big companies to fake green identities for themselves? May as well turn the whole of Wales into some sort of recycling facility and accept we’re just a glorified rubbish dump. We got rid of the coal tips and get a different sort of crap to live with. Nothing changed since the ‘classic’ 1958 film, The Vikings. Ernest Borgnine’s, King Ragnar, scornfully snorts ‘Wales! That s**g heap..’ The world clearly still see us that way.

Andrew Sowerby
2 months ago

Interesting article. Please can we have an article showing specific examples of 200 acre farms being bought by investors? I’m not sure there are any. I am a professional forest manager, chartered by the Institute of Chartered Foresters. I have worked in Wales for 20 years. Professional Foresters throughout Wales are working hard with farmers, estates and landowner to create Forest Farms, Community Woodlands, Community Orchards and Mixed Woodlands that produce timber and carbon credits.  Chartered Forest Managers in Wales are proud of their collaborative project that meet very high standards.  In the last 30 years Wales has not created more… Read more »

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.