‘Multum in Parvo’

Rutland is England’s smallest county but as its motto suggests big things can happen there. Although the statistics may or may not be correlated, Rutland has been declared the UK’s happiest county; it also has England’s highest fertility rate.

Flag of Rutland

Flag of Rutland

Yet not all is well. The tiny county has a tiny area of woodland, covering just 6.4% of its land, around half the UK average. Only 8.4% of people have accessible woodland within 500 metres of their home.

We’re doing something about that. Thanks to a fantastically generous legacy from local farmer George Henry Sellars and support from Biffa Award, we created 32.5 hectares of new native woodland habitat, starting with a Forest of Flowers project in 2007 and the final trees planted – by local people – in 2011.

Projects like these underline the huge contribution of the Landfill Tax. Not only did it transform the waste management industry but it has helped get lots of wonderful environmental projects off (or rather on) the ground. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do the same thing for carbon and climate change?

But hang on… we could. The UK Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) requires all organisations consuming more than a certain amount of electricity to pay a levy on their carbon emissions, currently priced at £12 per tonne.

This will generate roughly three quarters of a billion pounds of income this year. It disappears into Treasury, where it could be used to fund new roads, airports, HS2… who knows? Wouldn’t it be great to know where at least some of the money is being spent, and that it’s actually doing the environment good?

So here’s an idea. Let’s do something like the Landfill Tax. Let’s let companies choose which carbon mitigation projects 10% of their CRC liability can be spent. It’s a tiny bit of a tiny tax but if it went towards woodland we’d see at least 7,500 hectares being created every year. That would go a long way towards the Government’s own stated woodland expansion policy.

There are only winners here. Our natural landscape would get the financial support it so badly needs. Businesses would be able to generate positive publicity from an otherwise unpopular and costly carbon tax. Government would be able to actually deliver on objectives.

See? There really can be “much in little”. All it needs is the political will to make it happen. What do you think – shall we give it a go? 

Nick Atkinson, Carbon Leader

About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
This entry was posted in Climate Change, Government Affairs, Planting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to ‘Multum in Parvo’

  1. Tony says:

    And here comes the Bird Fair, Rutland is once again to be invaded by ornithologists from all around the world. Not that I’m going this year, I have been twice since its inception.

    http://www.birdfair.org.uk/

  2. Valerie Smith says:

    What a great idea. Have you put it to government? If not, why not?

  3. Marcus says:

    Highest human fertility rate and woodland just do not go together. You spell out the problem in the first paragraph.

    • edithkl says:

      Sad but true.

      Rutland lies equidistant between the great and fast-swelling conurbations of Leicester and Peterborough – this may explain the high fertility rate as people who are prospering tend to move out into more rural areas the moment they can.

      Soon Leicester, Oakham and Peterborough will join up, no doubt, to form a Great Wen the size of the original Great Wen, London.

      I have only driven through Leicester once or twice but was staggered, and horrified. Refugees from Leicester have pitched up in Norfolk, not surprisingly – one was a young policeman and his family who could stand Leicester no longer. Sadly, “empty” Norfolk is now a target for high fliers from the crashing London and Paris property giants. Two “big noises” have just left Carlyle Real Estate and are licking their wounds in a small market town near Norwich, and applying to build hundreds of unaffordable but poor quality houses on fields next to an ancient Abbey. The locals are apoplectic – but these types are like the Terminator, they do not stop and cannot be stopped, it seems. Although the Law does forbid wrecking the “setting” of a listed building, but this kind of Law is of zero interest to realtors.

      As for Peterborough – but others have described this better than I can. I will just add that the great Cathedral is lost in a welter of roads, industry, new housing estates, and general nastiness. The inmates are lost too – every time I go there, I vow to write to Alice Cooper and ask him to write a UK version of “Lost in America” called “Lost in Peterborough” (it would have to be pronounced PeTERborough to fit the tune).

  4. Clive Hillman says:

    Great idea and one that many non-members would support given a chance. Does this need a concerted push from the public or can the Trust start the ball rolling?

    • Nick says:

      Thanks for your comment Clive. We have secured a meeting next week with Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change. As John Gummer MP, he was the architect of the Landfill Tax on which this proposal is modeled. His opinions will be important and support of the CCC vital — watch this space for progress! In the meantime, letters to MPs wouldn’t hurt…:-)

  5. edithkl says:

    Ha ha. So am I enjoying the sunshine – and I live in a Flood Zone 3 – the absolute worst, right under the (useless) man-made flood barriers against the seas – flood barriers which In Japan recently seemed to make the crash of the waves landing on the other side WORSE rather than better!

    Wondering if I have been a tad “extreme” on the topic of Carbon Credits, I have been on the Interweb Net as we call it in the Fens, and found that I am nowhere near extreme. Indeed I probably do not know the full meaning of the word, so far as other “indigenous” peoples are concerned. Here is link that ought to give everyone massive pause for deep reflection:

    http://www.ienearth.org/global-alliance-of-indigenous-peoples-and-local-communities-on-climate-change-against-redd-and-for-life/

    They may be Amerindians, but they sure know how to use English in a good cause.

  6. 8arrows says:

    Yes, why not give it a go! As long as there’s no flood, Edith! I’m really enjoying this spell of sunshine.

  7. Roderick Leslie says:

    Yes, there are huge problems – I am staggered by the mess the attempts to do the right thing over carbon are getting us into – from EU biofuels promoting the hugely inefficient use of crops like oil seed rape (where production uses 70% of the carbon value of the crop) to palm oil fueling rainforest destruction.

    However, there are ways round – first, we need to get on and fix the obvious problems – difficult in an era when Government seems to have become completely constipated on its own processes & lack of political leadership. The other route is to bring it close to home – as Nick is suggesting, lets do it where we can see it, on our own doorstep -its the same as WT and Forestry Commission woods & forests – you don’t have to trust, you can go and see for yourself whether they are being looked after.

    • Edith Crowther says:

      “Think Globally, Act Locally” – that was the word on the streets when I were a nipper! Took 40 years to bring it centre stage – but, better late than never.

  8. William Hearnden says:

    Go for it!This must be a win win situation.I totally agree with the previous contributor.

  9. Edith Crowther says:

    I like the sound of this.

    I agree with Carbon Trade Watch that carbon trading has become a scam (as was predicted) – enabling Third World billionaires to buy billions of carbon credits with one hand and then rip up forests in the Developing World and replaced them with huge smelters, mines, etc. with the assistance of the usual TNCs based in the First World, thereby doubling their money and more.

    Meantime, normal humans and other species go to the wall. I am tempted to simply shrug and say “Bring on the Flood, it is the only thing that is going to stop this” – and I am not the only one.

    But there is some point in picking up a lethal weapon that is being misused and using it for a good purpose. It has more chance of success than trying to get rid of the lethal weapon altogether, and seems more courageous than simply shrugging and waiting for disaster.

    I am a cautious type, but this idea seems both daring and sensible, an odd combination that is the hallmark of “lateral thinking”. Lateral thinking has not been shown to have any drawbacks yet – perhaps because it is not used much!

  10. Peter Kyte says:

    A lot can be done provided we overcome inertia and spur on companies, by pointing out the positive publicity they can get from subscribing to environmental projects, which can only be good for their image and indirectly, profits.

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