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Climate change damage can only be reversed by planting trees says conservation expert

By Oliver Kemp

A conservation expert has said the only way to reverse the damaging effects of climate change is for local councils to start planting trees.

Dr Charlie Gardner, a conservation biology lecturer at the School of Anthropology and Conservation for the University of Kent in Canterbury, says local council climate emergency plans to reduce carbon emissions may not be enough to draw the existing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

"Luckily, we have this amazing technology to do that at zero cost," he said.

Dr Charlie Gardner teaches conservation biology at the University of Kent
Dr Charlie Gardner teaches conservation biology at the University of Kent

"It's called a tree. Plants take carbon out of the atmosphere and convert it into their tissues, they convert it into wood where it's stored."

"It's widely recognised we need tree planting and ecosystem restoration on a massive scale globally to draw down the existing carbon out the atmosphere, and trees are the only technology we have to do this," he said.

Dr Gardner said another important step local councils need to take is reducing pollution from waste disposal.

"Waste is important because landfill generates a huge amount of methane," he said.

"There is lots councils can do at a local level to ensure that nothing goes to landfill."

Listen to Dr Gardner on the KM Community Podcast

The list of local authorities declaring climate emergencies across the county has been growing over the past year.

Maidstone Borough Council was the first to declare a climate emergency, with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council being the latest to pass the motion.

Ashford Borough Council rejected a motion of climate emergency last month, but made a commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Maidstone were the first local council to declare a climate emergency
Maidstone were the first local council to declare a climate emergency

In response to Dr Gardner's comments, a spokesman for Canterbury City Council said: "A cross-party councillor working group is being set up to oversee the council's approach and to draw up an action plan.

"Planting more trees is almost certainly an option they will consider."

A spokesman from Maidstone Borough Council said it is currently investigating plans to plant trees to improve air quality across the borough.

"This work will include exploring further the possibility of planting trees on Upper Stone Street," he said.

"Great care and consideration will be taken to select the correct species of tree to ensure that the benefits of improving air quality are met."

The KM Community podcast
The KM Community podcast

Although there are strategies local councils can adopt now to reduce the effects of climate change, Dr Gardner believes authorities are running out of time to act.

"We are at risk of leading to a world which cannot support civilization," Dr Gardner said.

"This is climate change - it's a threat to our existence.

"And we don't have a lot of time, which is why we use this language called emergency."

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