The West Midlands’ commitment to the environment has reached another major milestone as over 200,000 trees have now been planted and registered on the Virtual Forest by organisations and individuals across the region. Since January 2020, West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has been encouraging residents and businesses to get involved in tree planting through its Virtual Forest initiative. As an official partner of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Severn Trent have been a major contributor to this milestone, planting 72 Tiny Forests – one to represent each nation or territory taking part in Birmingham 2022 and named after a bird or flower of the country it represents.
Most recently, over 2,000 people from schools and local communities took part in Severn Trent’s Tiny Forest planting day with 44,400 trees being planted. As well as the Tiny Forests, Severn Trent has also committed to planting 2022 acres of new forest in the Midlands through a Legacy Forest campaign. This initiative will look to sequester most of the carbon from hosting the Games, as well as to increase the tree coverage across the region. Much of this tree planting will take place in 2022/2023. Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the WMCA, said: “It is wonderful news that, as a region, we have now planted over 200,000 trees since January 2020. “This is not only essential work in support of our net zero by 2041 target but is also hugely welcome given the great benefits we all derive from trees – cleaning our air, making our neighbourhoods more beautiful, and helping us to tackle the climate emergency. “I’ve had the chance to attend numerous tree planting events across the West Midlands this season and I very much look forward to continuing these as we begin planning for the next tree planting season in October. I commend everyone involved for their brilliant collective efforts to improve our natural environment and help protect, restore and enhance our communities. “For more information and to get involved, I encourage local residents to visit the Virtual Forest website and join in with all of our tree planting activities.” Ricky Dallow, Forest Creation Manager for Severn Trent, said: Severn Trent said “We are delighted to have helped contribute to WMCA reaching the 200,000 milestone for their Virtual Forest through our Tiny Forest and Legacy Forest campaigns. “The Commonwealth Games is a wonderful occasion for the region, and our Tiny Forests provide a long term, sustainable way to honour the event while making sure communities get involved in the spirit of the Games. “The sites will help to deliver a lasting legacy for Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as well as boosting access to green space in urban areas, supporting environmental education and increasing regional resilience against environmental issues such as flooding, heat stress and nature loss.” The Virtual Forest was launched at the same time as #WM2041, which is WMCA’s plan to be achieve net zero carbon by 2041. This ambitious target for the region will support the delivery of the government’s national target to achieve net zero carbon by 2050 while leaving no-one behind. The announcement of the 200,000 milestone falls on World Environment Day, an annual day by the United Nations to encourage awareness and action for the protection of the environment. Cllr Ian Courts, WMCA portfolio holder for environment and energy and leader of Solihull Council, said: “Planting over 200,000 trees since 2020 is a magnificent achievement in support of our West Midlands Virtual Forest campaign. “Here in Solihull, we’re making our contribution to the Virtual Forest by planting a total of 250,000 trees over the coming years through our own Planting Our Future and our £16.8m project Wildlife Ways programmes, just two of our exciting environmental initiatives we have in the borough. “The value of tree and hedgerows to our environment cannot be underestimated. They are an important part of improving biodiversity, they absorb carbon and help create the beautiful green spaces we all want to enjoy across our region. “However, we cannot rest on our laurels, there is much more to be done and I hope this report and the case studies will inspire homeowners and landowners to come forward to plant trees or hedgerows to add to our West Midlands Virtual Forest.” WMCA is encouraging as many people as possible to register their trees to continue to see progress towards a greener West Midlands. To get involved, please visit https://www.wmvirtualforest.co.uk/.