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Sadiq Khan celebrates after planting half a million trees in London

Sadiq Khan has celebrated after planting the 500,000th tree funded since he became mayor in 2016, while critics said he was “all talk and no action”.

At an event held to mark National Tree Week, the mayor announced a new half a million pounds of investment into tree-planting across London.

City Hall said that the “record-breaking” 500,000 trees planted since Mr Khan’s election was already the result of almost £7 million of investment.

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The 500,000th tree – an apple tree – was planted on Friday morning by the mayor at Garratt Park School in Earlsfield.

Mr Khan told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “What people may not realise is the importance of trees to tackling the climate emergency, to cleaning up the air in our city, but also to make sure people’s mental health is better.

“Why do I say that? We know because of the eight million trees across our city, that’s captured and stores more than two million tonnes of carbon. Trees are also really important in taking in particulate matter and nitrogen oxide[s].

“But also we know unfortunately, in the more deprived parts of our cities, there tends to be fewer trees – and we know from the pandemic the difference [that having a] connection with nature meant.”

The mayor’s environmental record was criticised however by Tory assembly member Tony Devenish, who called the mayor “all talk and no action”.

He pointed to a pledge made by the mayor in a Guardian interview and subsequent tweet in 2015, in which he promised to plant two million trees in his first term alone.

Mr Devenish, who represents Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham at City Hall, said: “Eight years later, he is today celebrating planting just a quarter of that number…

Sadiq Khan celebrates after planting half a million trees in London Harrow Online
Sadiq Khan plants the 500,000th tree funded during his mayoralty. Credit: Caroline Teo/Greater London Authority

“As COP28 gets underway, today’s announcement from the mayor sums up his poor environmental record.

“Having focused all his efforts on extending [the] Ulez as part of an unfair tax grab on motorists which does nothing for air pollution, Sadiq Khan has very little to celebrate after eight years in office.

“We won’t have a zero emission bus fleet until 2034 and are decades away from having enough rapid electric vehicle charging hub sites.”

The mayor said in response: “I was quite clear in my manifesto, when I stood to be mayor in 2016 – we would massively increase the number of trees being planted.”

In his book published earlier this year, Breathe, Mr Khan said that the 2015 pledge was “one of the biggest mistakes I made when running for mayor” and that it served as “a reminder to always, always do your homework before announcing a policy”.

His 2016 manifesto did not include a figure, only committing to “embark on a major tree-planting programme across London”.

Mr Khan continued: “We’ve broken all sorts of records. We’ve planted more trees in my seven and a half years than the previous two mayors did…

“We’re on target to increase tree cover – tree canopy – by 10 per cent, but at the same time, rewilding our city.

“So we’re not just planting more trees, not just greening our city more, two new meadows – we’ve also brought back beavers, bats and bees. We’re also making sure that we restore our rivers, meadows and wetlands as well.

“It’s incredibly important though [that] we get more support from the Government. At a time when COP28 has begun, the Government’s rowing back on our climate change commitments. In London, we’re speeding ahead.”

City Hall said that London boroughs will be supported to plant almost 3,000 street trees this winter. In addition, the mayor is giving away another 40,000 trees to Londoners in partnership with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV)’s ‘I Dig Trees’ campaign.

According to the mayor’s team, London’s trees now cover an area that would fill Hyde Park more than 239 times.

Transport for London (TfL) has said that with more Government funding, it could have a zero emission bus fleet by 2030, rather than 2034.

Mr Khan has said that the expanded Ulez [Ultra low emission zone] will enable five million Londoners to breathe cleaner air, and that it will save lives

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