Every household in Wales is to be offered a free tree to plant as part of a scheme to tackle climate change, the Welsh Government has announced.
The scheme will give people the chance to choose a tree of their own to plant or have one planted on their behalf by Coed Cadw, the Woodland Trust.
Trees will be available to collect from March from one of five regional community hubs, with 20 more hubs to be established across Wales by next October.
Deputy minister for climate change Lee Waters said the project is estimated to cost around £2 million.
Visiting one of the trust’s woodland creation projects near Gnoll Park in Neath, South Wales, Mr Waters said he hoped the campaign would inspire families to go on planting trees themselves in the future.
“We need to plant lots more trees to meet our climate change targets by the end of this decade – we have to plant 86 million more trees in Wales,” he said.
“Our tree-planting record has not been great and we need to increase it by 15-fold every year. That is a massive challenge.
“We want households to play their part. We’ve issued a call to arms really.
“It’s a practical thing, because if every household planted a tree, we’d have a million trees planted. But it’s also about awareness raising and getting people to think about nature and the role trees can have.
“Our message is trees are amazing – we’ve been neglecting them, we need to plant lots, lots more of them and you and your family can play your part.”
Mr Waters admitted individual tree planting was not the answer to reaching the target, and said the land owners of Wales, such as farmers, would need to embrace tree growth for the country to see a real difference.
It is believed that around 10% of land used for food production needs to be turned into woodland.
“Primarily we need farmers to be planting more trees on their land,” Mr Waters said.
“Ten percent is not a huge shift. There’s good practical reasons for why trees can help farmers go about their normal business.
“We’re also going to be changing the subsidy regime so farmers are incentivised to do it.
“There’s a lot of anxiety in the farming community at the moment and it’s easy to see the tree as the boogeyman – actually trees are a part of the solution of how we deal with the current crisis and it needn’t be at the expense of farming.”
Mr Waters said the Government wants to follow in Belfast City Council’s footsteps in creating a heat map of where people would like to see trees planted in their communities, and encouraged everyone to get in touch with suggestions.
A consultation on plans to create a national forest for Wales will launch early next year, he said.
“We seriously need to plant a massive amount of trees, as well as doing a pile of other things, if we’re going to avoid the catastrophe of climate change,” he said.
“We use the word emergency for a reason – this is very, very serious and we can all make a contribution by stopping some things and positively doing other things. And planting a tree is a simple thing every family can do.”
Natalie Buttriss, Coed Cadw director, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Welsh Government in this great community tree giveaway to get thousands of native trees in the ground.
“We want people from all backgrounds to be part of planting the national forest for Wales.”