The Fastest Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions in Britain – Get Rid of Farming on Marginal Land and Let Trees Grow

It has recently been suggested that the best way of rewilding is to simply let areas naturally seed and reforest. Of course this requires removal of grazing.

England’s current woodland covers only 10% of the country and current regenerative plans are only planning to increase this by 2%, by 2050.

If woodland cover was increased to 26%, 10% of the nation’s carbon would be adsorbed naturally, whilst supporting dwindling wildlife.

Rewilding – allowing woodland to regenerate naturally on a large scale – is the most effective way to increase woodland cover.

Allowing trees to naturally establish over huge areas could massively expand Britain’s woodlands more effectively and at a fraction of the cost of tree planting, according to research by Rewilding Britain.

Britain is one of Europe’s least wooded countries. Rewilding Britain says the UK government’s draft England Tree Strategy, open for public consultation to 11 September, is woefully inadequate for tackling the climate and nature crises. More ambitious targets and a fresh approach are needed.

The government’s unambitious plans also focus on manual tree planting as a quick fix. But a Rewilding Britain study to be published later this year shows that allowing and enhancing natural regeneration – supported by native tree planting in suitable sites – would be the most effective long-term approach for landscape-scale reforestation.

There is scientific support for this, as the areas around the world that have most rapidly reforested are those that have experienced the most rapid reforestation are those that have experienced the most rapid rural depopulation. Removal of grazing leads to natural forest regeneration.

Gulmi District and many other parts of Nepal — especially its middle-hills region — have experienced a forest resurgence over the past several decades. A forthcoming paper by a NASA-funded research team, using the most detailed analysis of Landsat satellite images of Nepal to date, has found that forest cover expanded from 26 percent in 1992 to 45 percent in 2016. This makes Nepal an exception to the global trend of deforestation in developing countries.

Many locals and experts attribute the forest regrowth to policy changes from about three decades ago, when the government began devolving management authority from bureaucrats to local communities across the country. Community forestry helped to reduce illegal logging, and many villagers undertook tree-planting campaigns to re-establish local woodlands.

One study showed that areas with the highest out-migration experienced the most forest recovery.

But there is another factor at play in Nepal’s forest resurgence: human migration. In recent decades, millions of Nepalis have left the country to work in the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia, and beyond. As Nepalis wire money home, population and economic pressures shift away from agriculture to other types of rural and urban livelihoods. The families of migrants often rely less on forest products or they abandon farmland, aiding reforestation and helping create what one 2016 study termed a “remittance landscape,” referring to the funds sent back to Nepal. A 2018 study, which mapped the spatial distribution of reforestation and out-migration in Nepal, showed that the areas with the highest out-migration experienced, on average, the most forest recovery. There is a “strong positive effect of international out-migration on forest regeneration in Nepal,” the researchers concluded.

Globally, migration has important – though complex, and often ignored – impacts on forests. In many countries, forests appear to recover as people leave rural areas for work elsewhere. In El Salvador, for example, rural migration to cities and the United States has contributed to a forest rebound, as people have become less dependent on farming. 

Of course farming on marginal land in Britain is not a natural state of affairs. It only exists because of subsidy, a subsidy which puts animals on the land which fart vast amounts of methane – a greenhouse gas. Of course there are many upland areas whose natural state would not be forest but heath or moorland. These are the areas where it is defensible to use public subsidy to maintain a Beatrix potter landscape of Hardwick sheep and rare breeds cattle. On the rest of marginal land we should be refocusing subsidies overtime towards coppicing of naturally regenerated woodland to create woodchip zero-carbon biofuel. If we plough the fields we biochar from woodchip waste we even have a negative carbon cycle. Its no argument to say areas will return to bracken. Bracken is a superb biofuel.

There is no argument here about loss of food, as I have written here many times. We can easily make this up through zero carbon greenhouses and market gardening on better land nearer urban markets, as they are doing in netherlands where energy consumption of the horticulture sector has halved in the last 20 years.

So pension off the ‘dog and stick farmers’ we subsidise to chase around there cows and sheep to increase global warming. They are carbon dinosaurs.

Note the NFU report that we can offset beef emissions through biofuel makes no sense – where does the lane for biofuel come from – err beef or other food production. Its just special pleading.

Why Rejection of a Rail Mode for the Lower Thames Crossing has to be Revisited

As the Lower Thames Crossing Grinds its way to examination.

New Civil Engineer

Infrastructure projects like the Lower Thames Crossing should be “multi-purpose” and span more than one sector, according to Expedition Engineering director Alistair Lenczner.

According to Lenczner, the Lower Thames Crossing should be redesigned to include a road and railway.

He added that this would help improve the project’s benefits and reduce its carbon impact.

“No one thinks about integrated projects and this is a perfect example where there is a clear opportunity and a clear benefit,” he said. “We need to think of a complete picture of national infrastructure.”

The current set-up in the UK “conspires against” such collaboration, Lenczner said. He added that the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS) – published last month – misses “significant opportunities” by organising infrastructure in separate “silos”.

Roads, railways, airports, energy and water, for example, are currently planned and delivered by separate agencies, with none responsible for identifying opportunities for multi-purpose projects that could deliver benefits across two or more sectors.

“It’s a complete blind spot and opportunities are being missed,” Lenczner said.

“There’s nothing in the NIS which looks at the potential for projects which are across sectors – road and rail, rail and energy – they’re all just doing their own thing but no one’s looking at it. Combining projects could allow better land use, better value and delivery of infrastructure in a more effective way.”

We have of course promoted the concept of a Kent Essex Rail on here several times.

Lets look at why it was rejected by government.

Options for a Lower Thames Crossing 2013

The Department for Transport commissioned a study in 2009 to review
the ways in which the capacity constraints at the existing crossing could
be addressed. The 2009 study concluded that there was a problem at
the existing crossing which required resolution through the provision of
additional road-based river crossing capacity in the Lower Thames area.
It also concluded that the provision of rail freight as part of any new Lower
Thames crossing would not address the rail freight capacity issues that are
forecast for the area. Passenger flow volumes on a cross-river rail route east
of London are also likely to be limited, meaning the inclusion of passenger
rail services would be unlikely to represent value for money.
As such, rail infrastructure has not been included within the proposals discussed in
this document.

The study referred to be xxx is here although it has not been archived properly and links to the chapters are broken. As I understand it however it modelled ‘as is’ rail movements and transport modelled existing points of trip origin and end plus growth.

There is of course a problem here – much like the much quoted fable of Brent Toderian saying ‘there is no demand for this bridge how many people do you see swimming this river’.

All I am suggesting at this stage is that after digging the three tunnels the digging machine rather than burying itself under the Thames turns and digs two more tunnels that are capable for fitting out for rail in the future. The marginal cost therefore is very low.

We have of course not seen any South Essex strategic plan, or one for North East Kent. I doubt we ever will as 5 years of work has never seen the light of day. One can only conclude the authorities are afraid of the blowback given that almost all strategic development options outside one in Basildon would be on Greenbelt. No one authority however can solve housing growth by themselves given the tight boundaries every startegic site spills over. The local authorities therefore are in a hang togther or hang apart scenario.

The new standard method means that there are all currently planning for 1/3rd to one half of there new ‘capped’ standard method numbers. The shortfall needs to be met elsewhere. Strategic plans in the past always assumed shortfalls would be met in the greatest concentration of brownfield in the South East. The Thames Gateway. Which is here and not considered ‘urban’ in the new standard method. When of course it is one of the most heavily urban parts of Europe alongside comparable areas such as the Randstadt. Imagine the Randstad with no bridges across the Rhine and no rail travel between Rotterdam and Amsterdam. This is the equivalent here. Nor does it account for the network benefits of new train paths – for example rail freight being totally taken out of the eastern side of London and freeing up capacity of terminals at cpacity such as Fenchurch Street, enabling more trains into London and more stops at development nodes at stations.

Given that over 150,000 units will need to be allocated both North and South of the Thames where shall it go? One obvious location is around South Hornden Station which potentially could be an interchange station between a Kent Essex Rail and C2C linking to Brentwood in the North and Medway and Gravesend to the South. This would radically reduce trips that would otherwise be forced to cross the Thames by car. Furthermore HS1 disappears beneath the Thames at Grays. The only reason Ebbsfleet happened was because Thurrock in their well known shortsightedness campaigned against a station. There is still potential however to link in HS1 to C2C nd its very fast and satright line to Southend. A 2km tunnel would link this to Soutehnd Airport (Southend International rail station) and the massive potential for rail based growth north of Southend and Essex largest brownfield site at Foulness Quinetec Ranges. More importantly it creates new travel to work areas and increases the economic benefits of urban agglomeration. Remember this was considered the MAIN benefit of the CAMKOX Arc, yet in the Thames Estuary 2050 Project (as the Gateway in now known) these potential benefits not even been studied.

There are a number of structural problems here in government. The first of course is the inability of the MoT to consider land use options not just transport options. The second is the ability of the MCHLG to lose interest in the Estuary every few years as progress has been so slow and the lack of progress by local authorities – always begging for money and never producing plans for more housing.