Commercial forestry enjoys a number of tax reliefs and it is in no small part thanks to these reliefs that modern forestry delivers such good value for the common good. Guy Warren, head of forestry for CKD Galbraith, highlights the benefits to society and to a low carbon economy which modern forestry management offers and why tax reliefs are key to the sectors growth.
Forestry professionals have been quietly delivering sustainability for a great many years now; well before the notion of sustainability caught on in the mainstream. Society quite rightly seeks a low carbon economy and forestry and timber production are at its core; in the latest survey of public opinion carried out by the Forestry Commission the highest level of agreement was seen with the statement; trees are good, because they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the wood', with 80% of the UK public agreeing.
Healthy resilient growing forests are in an efficient carbon sink; between 1990 and 2010 the UK's forests captured 585 million tonnes of carbon gross and are projected to capture a further 167 million tonnes gross by 2015. However, during this period there were very few new plantations established; a disappointing fact considering that timber is the only ecosystem service that forest owners can currently trade on scale that produces a financial return for their investment.
Guy Warren is a strong advocate of maintaining the tax reliefs that forestry, and therefore society, currently benefits from:
"The UK's sustainably managed forests provide a plethora of other ecosystem services to the benefit of society, often as a by-product. These benefits might include regulatory services such as flood alleviation and maintaining water quality or perhaps simply the many forms of recreation that can be undertaken in a forest.
"We strongly believe at CKD Galbraith that the societal benefits far outweigh any gain to the public purse from restricting or removing the tax reliefs that Scottish forestry and therefore society currently benefits from.
"Of course alternative approaches could be considered, such as establishing a separate market system for ecosystem services. Although from the work done to date on this subject, monetising nature is far from a straightforward matter and has proven a very emotive subject for many.