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.
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