The Conservative Party said they will triple tree-planting rates if they win the General Election, while the Liberal Democrats promised they will plant twice as many trees as the Tories.
Boris Johnson announced a £640 million Nature for Climate fund which would increase tree planting in England, with the Government aiming to work with the devolved administrations to boost tree-planting rates to 30,000 hectares every year, which the party said could mean 30 million more trees.
But the Lib Dems said they will plant 60 million trees every year, describing it as “the largest tree-planting programme in UK history”, while pointing out that the Tories have “woefully failed to meet their own targets for planting trees in the past year”.
Labour also said the Conservatives failed to meet previous tree-planting targets and said this vow is an attempt by Mr Johnson to “greenwash his atrocious environmental record”.
Former environment secretary Michael Gove blamed the Common Agricultural Policy for the Government not being able to meet its targets for planting trees.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme, Mr Gove said: “We’re dedicating additional money to make sure we meet the challenge of the climate emergency.”
Pushed on the fact that the Conservative Government is not on target to deliver on their 2015 manifesto promise to plant another 11 million trees by 2020, Mr Gove said: “And that’s why we need to leave the European Union.”
He added: “Inside the European Union we’re trapped in the Common Agricultural Policy.”
He continued: “Across the political spectrum, whether people argued for Leave or Remain, there are very few people who argue that we should maintain the unfair, unjust and un-green Common Agricultural Policy.
“It’s one of the big benefits of leaving the European Union, and it will allow us to meet these tree planting targets which will ensure that we deal with the climate crisis that we face.”
Under the Tory plans, new forests would spring up and existing woodland such as the Northern Forest and Northumberland Forest would be expanded, while more trees would also be planted in towns and cities.
The party’s fund would also be used to restore degraded peatland across the country, the party said.
A Conservative government would also launch a £500 million Blue Planet fund, resourced from the International Aid budget, to export UK expertise in marine science around the world, supporting developing countries to protect marine habitats.
The party said funds would also be used to improve conditions for fishing crews who rely on healthy oceans and plentiful fish stocks for their livelihoods.
Mr Johnson said: “There is nothing more conservative than protecting our environment and these measures sit alongside our world-leading commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“But, just as with our planned investment in schools and hospitals, we can only do any of this if we end the gridlock and deadlock in parliament with a Conservative-majority government.”
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said: “It’s clear that the Conservative Party doesn’t take climate change seriously.
“Only the Liberal Democrats have a radical plan to make a real impact in the fight against climate change and build a brighter future for our planet.”
Sue Hayman, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, said: “When Labour comes forward with its own ambitious proposals as part of our Plan For Nature, they will be informed by what the science says is necessary and possible – not by what Boris Johnson thinks he needs to do to greenwash his atrocious environmental record.”