Global warming: Trees in Cardiff help to fight against climate crisis

With February marking the highest temperature on record globally, how will more trees in Cardiff help with the climate crisis?

More than 150 community events will be held during the official tree planting season, which runs from late October through until early April.

Chloe Jenkins was showing volunteers from various age groups how to plant at the Bute Park Community Orchard. She demonstrated how easy it was to plant a tree: holding a spade, digging a hole, positioning the tree, and inserting a stake.

Jenkins was part of Cardiff Council’s ten-year tree planting programme, which aims to increase the number of trees in the city and support its One Planet strategy to fight climate change.

“With the council declaring climate and nature emergency, they wanted to have some practical actions that could help address that. It’s not just about tree planting, but obviously tree planting is one of those ways where you can actively reduce carbon in the urban environment,” Jenkins said.

The programme Coed Caerdydd, which is Welsh for “Cardiff Woods”, is hosting community planting events around Cardiff through to the end of the tree planting season in early April.

Two retired men joined the planting event at the Bute Park Community Orchard, hoping to contribute to climate action.

February 2024 saw unusually high temperatures, with an average of 13.54°C, making it the warmest February on record globally, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service. The previous twelve months also set a record for the highest average temperature.

Woods and trees are a natural solution to global warming. Increasing tree coverage to 30% would lower temperatures by an average 0.4°C in the cities, according to a modelling study of 93 European cities by an international team of researchers.

Trees play an important role in absorbing carbon, according to John Deakin, National Trust Head of Trees and Woodland. “The carbon is not only stored by the tree and the roots but also held in the surrounding soil. As trees grow, they absorb and lock in carbon emissions that would otherwise contribute to global heating,” he said.

In Cardiff, trees remove around 10.5% of all pollutants emitted by Cardiff’s traffic every year, including 7,900 tonnes of carbon, which is the same as the annual emissions from 14,000 cars, according to the data from Coed Caerdydd.

The Coed Caerdydd initiative was launched in 2021 and has made significant progress. “By planting new trees and caring for existing woodlands, we want to go from tree canopy coverage from 18.9% to 25% across the city,” said Jenkins. “By the end of this month, we will have done 80,000 new trees planted across Cardiff in the last three years.” That will be the equivalent of over 25 Principality Stadium pitches.

People in Cardiff hope planting trees in urban areas can bring benefits. “We’ve done public consultations citywide asking people what they want out of the project work,” said Jenkins. “Improving air quality came out on top. We’ve got some of the worst pollution from cars and everything in Cardiff. And obviously, helping with things like flood protection is also crucial.”

The planting events are welcomed by the local communities, with tickets selling out quickly on Eventbrite.

Protecting ancient woodlands is also important in the climate crisis. Ancient and long-established woods store more carbon per hectare than other woods. They make up 25% of UK woodland, but hold 36% of woodland carbon, according to a report from Woodland Trust. In Cardiff, Ancient Tree Inventory events to protect and care for ancient and veteran trees have been successful.

Alex Griffiths, who joined the planting event at the Bute Park Community Orchard, said, “Trees are so important in climate action. Although Cardiff is quite a green city, there’s a long way we could go to have more canopy. We will be planting more trees.”