A letter to our Councillors

Dear Bristol City Councillors,

We recognise the fundamental importance of the natural environment, the value that nature has in an urban setting and the global threat posed by the ongoing climate catastrophe. We also recognise that trees are a crucial component in all these concerns.

We are supportive of Bristol City Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency and an Ecological Emergency and the goals detailed in the One City Climate Strategy, including the commitment to carbon neutrality by 2030 and doubling the abundance of wildlife by 2050. We are also supportive of their commitment to doubling the tree canopy by 2046.

However, we have a real concern that the commendable words are not being matched by effective actions.

A principle aim of the BTF is to promote the planting and preservation of trees in Bristol for the well-being of its citizens, the sustainability of urban habitation, the enhancement of nature in the cityscape and as our contribution to combating climate change (see A Manifesto for protecting Bristol’s existing Urban Forest).

A recurrent concern we have is the continued loss of trees as a result of environmentally insensitive developments that are not sympathetic to the City’s declared commitments outlined above. On the other hand, the BTF supports developments that favour a sustainable environment over high density occupancy, and those that prioritise retention of existing trees.

Bristol’s policy on replacing trees lost to development – adhering to the Bristol Tree Replacement Standard (BTRS) – is widely well regarded. As such, decision makers believe that tree loss is mitigated by subsequent tree replacement. However, recent studies undertaken by the BTF have shown that this is not the case over the timescales committed to by Bristol City Council and the Green Party.

Typically, tree planting undertaken under the BTRS takes between 30 and 50 years to recover the biomass (and therefore the CO2e) lost by felling, well beyond the 10-year commitment on carbon neutrality, and even beyond dates set for doubling the tree canopy or doubling wildlife abundance.

The BTF study has been developed into a versatile online tool for calculating the extent and timescale of the carbon deficit, with a wide range of inputs. This can be accessed via the link Tree Carbon Calculator, and we encourage you to try this yourself. See also the BTF blog Tree replacement and carbon neutrality.

In the example shown here, a mature tree felled in 2020 is replaced by four trees (as per BTRS) of the same species. The carbon released (2 tonnes CO2e) is not recovered until 2064, a full 34 years beyond the date Bristol aims to be carbon neutral.

This model can also be used to determine how many replacement trees are needed to recover lost carbon within a particular timescale. In the example shown, to be carbon neutral by 2030, a reasonable expectation as this is the declared aim of BCC, the felled tree would need to be replaced by 37 plantings of the same species. Scaled up to, for instance, 500 trees, new plantings would need to number 18,500 to mitigate the lost carbon.

This new information represents a fundamental change in the evidence base for tree replacements, and emphasises the need to retain existing mature trees, and not to consider replacement by new plantings as adequate mitigation.

We request that you consider this new information with urgency and make a commitment to oppose developments where mature trees are removed and tree replacements do not deliver carbon neutrality by 2030.

Congratulations BCC on its successful Defra Urban Tree Challenge Fund bid!

Dear Bristol City Council,

We want to put on record our congratulations for the successful bid that your Parks Strategy team led for Bristol City Council to the DEFRA Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTCF).  It has been some time in the resolution, but it is great that we now know for sure that it has succeeded.

We are delighted that there will now be more funds available to plant and maintain trees in the streets and green spaces of local communities that have perhaps been been overlooked in the past.

Thanks to you and to your excellent tree planting team, the Council has built an enviable reputation for planting urban trees across the city. Long may it continue!

We look forward to helping you with the planning and consultation that will be needed for adding these UTCF trees to next winter’s tree planting season.

This will make an important contribution to doubling Bristol’s tree canopy cover over the next 25 years.

We also applaud your decision to involve us in the collaborative partnership preparing the initial bid. As the only group specialising in protecting and caring for Bristol’s urban forest, we are very pleased to have been able to:

  1. Survey a representative sample of some of the 1,471 sites you have identified across the city, thereby relieving overstretched BCC officers who simply didn’t have the time to undertake this work.
  2. Adapt our Trees of Bristol website to record the planned planting locations for both street trees and the woodland sites.
  3. Develop our Tree Care site which communities will be able to use for post-planting tree maintenance and care – an important part of match funding the UTCF grant.
  4. We have also developed a comprehensive network of ward-based tree champions who are ready to be involved both in engaging with their local communities in the planned consultation and in helping with the ongoing care of newly planted trees.

As you can imagine, it was a lot of work, but we believe that it provided the sort of detail that helped clinch the bid.

Now that the funding has been secured, we look forward to meeting with you and the other partners to help with the next important planning phase of engaging with local communities and getting trees actually planted come next winter.

When can we meet to help you take this further?

Bristol Tree Forum AGM

Bristol Tree Forum is holding its annual general meeting on Monday, 4th November 6 pm at City Hall, College Green.

The theme will be Planting Trees for Bristol – a review of our past year’s successes, our plans for this winter’s planting season plus our planting plans for the longer-term.

A year on from the One City Plan commitment to double Bristol’s Tree Canopy, we’ve been working with partners to develop an action plan towards delivering this – but we need the support of the whole city.
Hear more about Replant Bristol: a new approach to bring together the great work already happening across the city and an invitation to join us.

Deputy Mayor, Councillor Asher Craig will tell us about the City’s ambitious plans for doubling tree canopy cover over the next 25 years.

Naseem Talukdar who is leading the 1,000 Trees for Bristol Initiative will talk about their plans to plant 1,000 trees at Southmead Hospital and at other Bristol sites.

Come along to hear more and maybe pledge your support.

And spread the word!