West Midlands virtual forest branches out to more than 1,500 trees

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) commitment to the environment has blossomed as more than 1,500 trees have been planted in its virtual forest.

In January the WMCA launched a new website that allows authorities, residents and businesses to register trees they have planted. In fewer than two months, and with thanks to local organisations such as Birmingham Trees for Life, more than 1,000 trees across the West Midlands have been established.

The virtual forest was launched at the same time as #WM2041 which is WMCA’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2041. This ambitious target for the region will support the delivery of the government’s national target to be carbon neutral by 2050 while leaving no-one behind.

#WM2041 contains 74 potential actions that businesses, councils, the WMCA and residents could take to limit the impact of climate change and achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2041.

The commitment includes ambitious tree-planting programmes including one tree planted for each resident, and plans for a national park, building on the work of Birmingham City University. The plan also includes developing more eco-friendly homes, including introducing a zero-carbon standard for new-build homes.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “With communities starting to see the impacts of climate change, more and more people are becoming aware of the need to make changes that preserve and enhance our environment.

“There is a lot of good work happening across the region on growing our green spaces, and we hope this website will help to highlight this and our work, to try and make the West Midlands one of the greenest places to be in the UK.

“Reaching more than 1,500 trees in a short space of time is a good start, and I am pleased we are heading in the right direction towards achieving our #WM2041 carbon neutrality goal.”

Thanks to Birmingham Trees for Life the number of trees in the virtual forest has jumped to 1,661. With help from nine green-fingered WMCA staff, the charity planted 1,000 saplings in Sycamore Recreation Ground, Bordesley Green.

Birmingham Trees for Life chairman, Geoff Cole, said: “We welcome the virtual forest highlighting the great work people do across the region planting new trees, and hopefully encouraging more people to become involved.

“Our charity has planted almost 100,000 trees in the city over the past 14 years in conjunction with schoolchildren, volunteers and communities.

“With so many trees being lost to development, old age and disease, it is crucial that as many of us as possible plant new ones to help fight climate change and to ensure our children and grandchildren have a green and healthy environment to grow up in.

Cllr Ian Courts, WMCA portfolio holder for environment and leader of Solihull Council, said: “Tackling climate change needs everyone to contribute. Do you have a garden or area of land that could benefit from tree planting? This is how to help the virtual forest!

“Planting a tree is a practical response to help mitigate the changes we can no longer prevent and to limit any further changes to our climate.

“I encourage anyone to support this initiative by planting trees and registering them with the virtual forest, they will be helping make the West Midlands a greener place literally and virtually.”

The website can be viewed at https://beta.wmca.org.uk/the-mayor/plant-a-tree/