Monday, 30 November 2015

Climate change >> Sidmouth's climate conversation >>> 'Living on the seafront helps us to sympathise with the plight of island nations facing elimination.'

The Vision Group, together with the Science Festival and SidEnergy, held a 'climate conversation' on the seafront on Saturday:
Futures Forum: Climate change >> come and join the 'climate conversation' on Sidmouth's seafront on Saturday 28th November

Here is a report from the event:

On a very cold promenade in gale force winds several conversations took place on the eve of the Paris Climate Summit on Saturday 28th November. We met two climate sceptics who were willing to discuss briefly their belief that the whole climate change issue is a myth. We also had some interesting conversations with scientists and researchers from the Met Office and Exeter university and educationists raising awareness among school students. We also had many conversations with residents and visitors about what we can do to encourage our political leaders to take the steps needed to keep fossil fuels underground. 

The UK is now producing more CO2 per citizen than any other country in the world. Living on the seafront helps us to sympathise with the plight of island nations facing elimination. These issues can be explored in more depth at Climate week.

Sidmouth was also represented at the mass gathering in London on 29th November.

This blog has run several pieces in the run-up to the UN conference starting today:
Futures Forum: Climate change: and forest renewal
Futures Forum: Climate change: join the Climate March in Exmouth >>> Sunday 29th November >>> with Prof Tim Gorringe of Exeter University
Futures Forum: Climate change: Who's responsible?
Futures Forum: Climate change: Changing Climate @ Radio 4: the solutions
Futures Forum: Climate change: join the Crediton Climate Challenge >>> Saturday 28th November
Futures Forum: Climate change: David Attenborough previews this month's UN conference @ Radio 4's Costing the Earth
Futures Forum: Climate change >>> This Changes Everything >>> film show and discussion in Honiton: Tuesday 24th November
Futures Forum: Climate change: Changing Climate @ Radio 4: the science
Futures Forum: Climate change: themes range from new technological opportunities and new approaches... to calculating emissions cuts and averting climate chaos
Futures Forum: Preparing for flooding: the EA's Flood Action Campaign
Futures Forum: Climate change: and 'security'
Futures Forum: Food for fuel... anaerobic digestion... and farming in Devon
Futures Forum: Climate Change: Who's doing their part and who isn't?

The week of 28th November to 6th December is Tree Week

This blog has run a lot of pieces on the theme of trees over the last month:
Sidmouth Tree Summit: reporting on the benefits of trees
Protecting trees in East Devon: District Council Tree committee a year on 
Climate change: and forest renewal
Devon Hedge Group >>> free event at the Donkey Santuary >>> 'Firewood from Hedges and Hedge-Laying' >>> Thursday 17th December
The Woodland Trust and its Very Important Trees >>> coming to Sidmouth's 'tree summit' Friday 27th November
Devon Hedge Group >>> in Sidmouth Fri 27th November
State of Nature ... and paving paradise
Arboretum @ Dissenter of Sidmouth >>> planting a rose and a fig in the memorial garden
i-Tree surveys in Sidmouth, Torbay and London >>> and how they can help us chose which trees to plant
Take a walk in the forest
The Oak @ Natural Histories on BBC Radio 4
The urban tree canopy
Valuing trees: the cost of replacing the Sid Valley's trees
Green cities: Good health
Sidmouth Arboretum @ Sidmouth Science Festival >>> "What have trees ever done for us?" >>> launch of valley-wide tree survey >>> Weds 14th October
Landscaping for Health: inspiring projects in the south-west
Living in a Greener Urban Area

This week is a very important week for trees in the UK:
National Tree Week: 5 reasons why trees are surprisingly good for you - BT
BBC - Earth - 11 of Britain's most legendary trees
Even smaller gardens can root for native trees this National Tree Week | Western Daily Press

The Tree Council

40th Anniversary National Tree Week

Saturday 28th November – Sunday 6th December

The strength and wellbeing of urban and rural communities alike is rooted in its trees. Strong healthy trees are a mark of a strong healthy community, and to continue to grow strong together, it’s essential for communities to keep on planting trees. 

This is why, each winter, The Tree Council inspires thousands of people across Britain to join forces and plant upwards of a million trees during National Tree Week – the UK’s largest tree festival.  

Launched in 1975, National Tree Week is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. 

The campaign has its roots in the national response to the Dutch Elm Disease crisis of the 1960s, which destroyed millions of trees. Communities across the UK answered the call to help replenish their depleted treescapes by taking part in the groundbreaking Plant a Tree in ‘73 initiative. Following the campaign’s success, The Tree Council was founded and the first ever National Tree Week took place two years later. 

40 years on, and we are once again facing a major threat to our trees in the form of ash dieback. To stem the damage to our landscapes and neighbourhoods, it is more essential than ever that we grow more trees in our parks, streets, woods and green spaces.  

Tree planting activities and workshops are taking place around the country organised by schools, community groups, The Tree Council’s member organisations and its volunteer Tree Wardens. Details can be found on The Tree Council’s interactive ‘Near You’ map, while tips for hosting an event and a downloadable poster to promote it are also available via the website.

‘With forty years of successful growth behind it, National Tree Week has become firmly rooted in the calendar of hundreds of community groups around the UK,’ said Pauline Buchanan Black, Director-General of The Tree Council. ‘To mark the 40th anniversary of this important campaign, we want to celebrate Britain’s rich heritage of tree-planting and applaud the commitment of communities that really value their trees.’

The Tree Council > Press & News > National Tree Week - Nov 2015

With a comparison from forty years ago:

- National Tree Week press release 1975

Sidmouth Tree Summit: reporting on the benefits of trees

Last week's 'tree summit' sought to bring all the players together and showcase them to the public:
Futures Forum: Open evening on trees in the Sid Valley >>> Fri 27th Nov

Here is the report from the chair of the Arboretum:

SIDMOUTH ARBORETUM held a ‘TREE SUMMIT’ at Kennaway House on Friday evening - to mark the start of the National Tree Planting Week and the Climate Summit.

Kenton Rogers of Treeconomics ponders a technical question

We tried out a different format to previous Tree Days and judged it a great success. A line up of speakers who were requested to speak for only 3 minutes ensured a lively and varied range of subjects. These were interspersed with time to ask questions directly of the speakers, purchase a gift or two, and mingle with others while enjoying the bar and refreshments available.

Steve Potter, dressed for the occasion in top hat and tails, introduced proceedings with a proposal that Sidmouth will sustain olive groves by 2050, and wrapped up the evening with a call to action = to plant more trees.

Devon Wildlife Trust attract discussion and information

Councillors and specialists such as Devon Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission, rubbed shoulders with locals such as Friends of the Byes, and wood turner Diana Russell.

There was something for everyone and after the raffle had been distributed, people remained to chat and learn from each other.

A proposal to set up a local Hedge Group was warmly received, a project to improve the old Boat Park had renewed support. Jeremy Woodward who organised the event for Sidmouth Arboretum considered the format successful and definitely to be repeated.

Graham Cooper and District Councillor Marianne Rixson discuss how the green environment assists health improvements

Many thanks to those who spoke on the benefits of trees, including Kevin Frediani, formerly of Bicton College; and Graham Cooper who spoke in favour of health related environmental design.

Our thanks to those who kindly donated for the raffle Against the Grain, Govier’s, I want I need, Pure Indulgence, Sidmouth Design, Sweet Sensations, Tree Drawings, Winstone’s, Woodlands Hotel, and Wyevale Garden Centre.

Diana East, Chairman, Sidmouth Arboretum

Protecting trees in East Devon: District Council Tree committee a year on

A year ago, the District Council put together a 'TAFF' to look at its policy on trees:
Futures Forum: Protecting trees in East Devon: District Council Tree committee meeting: Friday 5th December

Unfortunately, the committee became rather mired in the 'politics of trees':

Monday, 15 December 2014

Clr Howard's (A)way - How trees became politically dangerous in #EDDC

Trees are politically dangerous!

Who would have thought that trees in #EDDC would be politically dangerous! But there again in #EDDC it would appear that anything and everything that the Conservative majority Group can’t control and direct is deemed politically dangerous. So, the story about trees, politics and #EDDC is –

Way back in October 2013 following an initiative by Councillor Claire Wright

http://www.claire-wright.org/  #EDDC agreed set up a tree scrutiny task force. Yes, I know that this sounds rather innocuous but frankly anything that involves Claire Wright and trees must be politically suspect, after all she is the Woodland Trust’s https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/ tree champion for Devon. If you follow this link to the Woodland Trust you will see what a politically subversive lot they are.

Great, #EDDC having set up this task group then set about doing nothing to hold any meetings. Then low and behold one is called for 5 December 2014. Not bad only 14 months to organise a meeting! Must be something#EDDC Conservatives don’t really want to happen.

Anyway, Claire Wright turns up at the tree scrutiny task group meeting along with one of our other local politically dangerous #EDDC Councillors Roger Giles. As does, “on message” Conservative Councillor Tony Howard. 

 One would think that this task force might first of all set about electing one of their number to chair the task force. But you would be so wrong! Before the meeting even started Councillor Howard had been “appointed” by Councillor Tim Wood (no relative to the tree family), Chair of the  # EDDC Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Guess which political persuasion they are!?

Oh dear, we knew that it would all end in tears when at the meeting Claire Wright proposed Roger Giles should be the Chair. The matter was deferred to the next meeting – probably so that the Conservative Group could muster its troops to attend with their block vote.

Then the tree scrutiny task force set about discussing the scope of its remit. That is very politically taxing! This was fine until Claire Wright (her again?!) proposed that the Local Plan (now that is politically taxing!) be part of the remit. After much argy bargy the Chair, you recall its Conservative Councillor Tony Howard, announced that he had had enough and was closing the meeting! That will teach Claire Wright!

But wait, the two pesky independent Councillors then tried to get those present to agree a date for a further meeting. Now this is tricky as the task force has to conclude its scrutiny in 26 March so that it is all done way ahead of May’s local elections. So, when is the next meeting? Yup, 26 January!!

Hang on though, it’s not all over yet! Councillor Howard decides to throw a spanner in the works by resigning!

One way or another the #EDDC Conservative Councillors are throwing all they can at Claire Wright and her independent allies, even when it comes to talking about trees!

Read all about this #EDDC farce, and weep, at -

Real Zorro: Clr Howard's (A)way - How trees became politically dangerous in #EDDC
Boss of East Devon tree committee quits after explosive meeting | Exeter Express and Echo

However, things then settled down a little.

Here is the overview from the District Council on the work of the committee:

Evaluation and protection of Trees Task and Finish Forum

Task and Finish Forums - East Devon

The Scrutiny Cttee meeting on 25th June asked for a report after six months of the TAFF:

9 Report of the Tree Task and Finish Forum (pages 6 - 17) 
Report back from the forum set up by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to investigate the main threat to trees in the district, and evaluate appropriate action to robustly defend them. The report will be presented by the forum Chairman Councillor Mike Howe. 

Agenda for Scrutiny CommitteeThursday, 26 June 2015

This is from the minutes of the meeting:

5. Final report of the Tree Task and Finish Forum

Minute 5
Councillor Mike Howe was unable to attend the meeting to present his report.  The Chairman read out an email to the Committee from Cllr Howe highlighting recommendation 10 in the report on developing a Tree Strategy.
The Chairman thanked the Strategic Lead for Housing and Environment, Service Lead for Countryside and Leisure, and the Senior Arboricultural Officer along with other officers for their contribution to the Forum.
Questions and debate from the committee on the report included:
  • Why there was no specific reference to the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the Forum’s report: in response, the Service Lead for Countryside and Leisure advised the committee that the tree service covered the whole of the district with close liaison with the AONB officers.  The Senior Arboricultural Officer explained that different legislation covered Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) to that of AONBs;
  • Why there was no specific reference to the mitigating effect of trees on flooding: in response, the Chairman outlined that the many benefits of trees including that aspect were taken as a given in the report and the Forum operated on that basis.  More specific detail on those benefits would be set out in the Tree Strategy once produced;
  • Educational benefit of tree planting, with a recent community orchard planting scheme expected to be rolled out across the District;
  • Excellent work by Sidmouth with an active arboretum committee to survey trees in that area and in due course produce a policy;
  • TPOs can be placed on trees on Council owned land, but generally, this was not considered necessary, as there was an expectation that the tree management would be sufficient that the tree would not be under threat.  Full planning consent overrides a TPO but in determining an application a process is undertaken to weight the merit of overriding a TPO;
  • Recent shift in culture meant that developers were being educated in the benefits to retaining existing trees.  The wrong tree in the wrong place can be a problem for a developer, but equally the right tree with a mature canopy could add between 10 and 15 percent to the value of the site.  In recent years new TPO numbers had decreased but so too had pre-emptive removal of trees by developers;
  • Any TPO over six months old and not confirmed was no longer valid.
  1. That Tree officers be involved in pre planning application meetings as standard; greater involvement at an early stage would benefit the process and enable any issues to be addressed in a timely way;
  2. That, as part of the Systems Thinking review of the tree service at East Devon, to look at national guidance and best practice and where appropriate to look to adopt this within new work flow systems;
  3. That a review be undertaken of information provided on the Council’s website relating to arboriculture, and produce new web guidance on the main work areas to reduce service demand;
  4. That the decision on the choice of which TPO system is to be adopted be made by the Arboricultural Service, but for weight to be given to the importance of providing guidance notes with the TPO form to reduce ‘preventable demand’
  5. That the Council develops a Tree Enforcement Policy;
  6. That guidance be given to community groups working on Neighbourhood Plans to encourage particular consideration to be given to addressing issues in respect of trees and how their value within the community and landscape can be recorded and protected – the guidance to be drawn up by the Arboricultural Service in consultation with the planning policy team;
  7. That the Development Management and Planning Enforcement team (with technical support from the Arboricultural Service) look for effective ways to monitor the future protection of trees following development of a site – this to include criteria for monitoring and how to involve local councils and ward members in this process so that information is fed back to the Council as quickly and effectively as possible;
  8. That the benefits of remote data capture be supported and the Arboricultural Service be encouraged to undertake trials of the system so that it can be used to develop a district-wide on-line database of trees.  In addition, to investigate the feasibility and cost of open mapping to plot the district’s trees and calculate their ecosystem service benefits in monetary terms. (There is potential for this system, if effective, to be extended for use by community groups and tree wardens to help with logging tree information across the district – this information could also be used to populate Neighbourhood Plans);
  9. That the current arrangement of local councils with Quality Status and dealing with applications for work to trees be reviewed. Although local determination of applications adds value to the customer experience, local councils seek advice from the arboricultural service and so none of the work burden is taken from the arboricultural team.  In addition, not all of the decisions taken by the local councils follow advice given by officers; there have been appeals against decisions where a tree of poor quality had been approved for protection, contrary to advice from officers. This has resulted in delays in issuing a decision notice;
  10. That following adoption of the Local Plan, the Planning Team, in round table consultation with the Arboricultural Service and all other services that have tree assets (including Streetscene, Housing and Countryside),  develop a Tree Strategy to fit with other guidance, support and policy documents, to be taken into account during development and other related decision making.  The Strategy to include:
  • the Council’s aims in respect of urban and rural  planting and the green infrastructure, trees and development, to incorporate a replacement tree strategy
  • subsidence
  • public liability, health and safety, duty of care, determination of tree works applications, the recognition and analysis of the benefits or urban and rural forests and tree canopies to the environmental, aesthetic, economic and social well being of the area and how these could be maintained and enhanced
  • the authority’s perception and value of trees within the district
  • the importance of succession planting
  • tree protection including TPOs , reviewing TPOs, enforcement and supplementary guidance
  • the effective capture and monitoring of  data relating to canopy cover
  • efficient management of all trees including council owned trees
  • sustainability
  • climate change
  • guidance on species choice and planting
  • how to achieve effective partnership working with the district’s communities, agencies and organisations
  • examples of best practice
  • education
11. That the Arboricultural Service work with other relevant EDDC services and its partners to develop a programme of education to widen the public’s knowledge of trees and their value within the environment.
that, assuming agreement of the recommendations by Cabinet, the committee receive regular updates on the implementation of the recommendations listed.

Scrutiny Committee minutes for 26 June 2015 - Final report of the Tree Task and Finish Forum - East Devon

And here is the District Council's planning guidance on trees, updated in September:
Trees and development - East Devon

Although it's always more complicated:
'Cut down trees before they can object': Council planning officers offer 'consultancy services' to help developers win applications | Daily Mail Online
The Knowle - Parks and Gardens
The value of protecting our trees: £170million replacement cost - News - Sidmouth Herald

See also:
Futures Forum: Protecting trees in East Devon: District Council to debate
Futures Forum: Protecting trees in East Devon: District Council Tree committee meeting: Friday 5th December

Sunday, 29 November 2015

"Planning application to be submitted for Sidbury to Sidford walking and cycling trail"

A year ago, plans were coming together for the Sidbury to Sidford cycle route:
Futures Forum: "Work progressing to develop Sidbury and Sidford trail"

A year on, and those plans are about to be submitted for approval:

Planning application to be submitted for Sidbury to Sidford walking and cycling trail

Walkway / CyclewayWalkway / Cycleway
Posted on: 25 November 2015
A planning application for a proposed walking and cycling trail from Sidbury to Sidford will shortly be submitted by Devon County Council.
The scheme includes a 1km surfaced walkway and cycleway running between Laundry Lane in Sidford and the southern boundary of Sidbury. The trail runs along agricultural land on the Eastern side of the A375 and then passes onto boardwalk through woodland at Sidbury.
The route has been chosen following public exhibitions in Sidbury and Sidford in February 2014, as well as consultation with affected parties and a presentation to Sidmouth College. Different route options were displayed at the exhibitions and members of the public had the opportunity to comment on the proposals, which has helped produce the preferred route.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet member for Highway Management and local member for Sidmouth and Sidford, said: 
“The feedback from the consultations showed there is strong support for an improved walkway and cycleway and this scheme will improve safety for walkers and cyclists that currently use the A375. The first section of the route from The Byes to Brook Lane in Sidford will connect to the college link from the Byes, providing a safer route for young people cycling or walking to college. With the addition of an upgraded crossing of the A3052 and improvements on Laundry Lane, it will also provide a much better link to the existing cycleway and walkway from Sidmouth, through The Byes.”
Councillor Claire Wright, Devon County Councillor for Ottery St Mary Rural, said: 
“The road between Sidford and Sidbury can be treacherous for walkers and cyclists and the cycle route will provide a safe route for parents taking their children to and from school, as well as providing a lovely recreational facility. I know local people are really keen for this scheme to be progressed so it is excellent news that a planning application is about to be submitted.”
The first part of the route from The Byes to Brook Lane in Sidford does not need planning permission and the County Council is aiming to have funds in place to start work on this section in the next financial year (2016/17). The authority is still working on identifying full funding for the rest of the scheme.
Following the submission and validation of the planning application it will be available for viewing on the planning pages of the County Council website. Representations on the planning application can be made online.
A plan of the scheme is available here: Sidbury to Sidford cycleway walkway

Planning application to be submitted for Sidbury to Sidford walking and cycling trail | News centre

Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

Climate change: and forest renewal

Do you have to be rich to deal with climate change?
Futures Forum: Climate Change: and growth on Radio 4
Can the world economy survive without fossil fuels? | Larry Elliott | News | The Guardian

The UK's post-industrial landscape is spouting a National Forest:

House of Commons - The National Forest - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee
The National Forest (England)

The South Koreans, as another example, have done a lot to combat CO2 emissions through planting loads of trees - although whether this was despite the years of economic growth or because of it is open to debate:
South Korea goes it alone with the world’s most aggressive carbon market - Quartz

[Although not everything is going well:
South Korea’s Climate Plan A Joke | NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT
South Korea chops down ancient forest to build Olympic ski slope | Grist]

However, 'carbon offsetting' - or 'buying permission to pollute' under the REDD scheme - remains controversial:
Futures Forum: Climate change: the great carbon offsetting scam
Futures Forum: Neighborhood Environmentalism: protecting biodiversity ... ... and defining 'the environment'
Futures Forum: Climate change: and carbon pricing >>> emissions trading isn't working

And meanwhile, there are the forest fires 
Futures Forum: Singapore smog and palm oil

... and the clearing of forests for palm oil:
Futures Forum: Palm oil: the secret in your shopping basket - have your say
Futures Forum: Eco-imperialism, zero-deforestation and palm oil
Futures Forum: Saving the rainforests....... indigenous communities' and palm oil corporations' commitment to "zero-deforestation"

It's been happening in Indonesia:
Forest fires: What's happening in Indonesia? - CBBC Newsround
Forest fires and smoke, a test of palm oil dominance – Adisti Sukma Sawitri - The Malaysian Insider

Two Million Hectares of Indonesian Forests Lost to Fires Since June | Jakarta Globe

Tomorrow, the UN Conference on climate change kicks off:
Futures Forum: Climate change: David Attenborough previews this month's UN conference @ Radio 4's Costing the Earth

Today sees marches taking place around the world:
Futures Forum: Climate change: join the Climate March in Exmouth >>> Sunday 29th November >>> with Prof Tim Gorringe of Exeter University
Futures Forum: Climate change: join the global Climate March >>> 29th November >>> Paris and beyond >>>

Yesterday, the Vision Group hosted a 'climate conversation' on Sidmouth's seafront:
Futures Forum: Climate change >> come and join the 'climate conversation' on Sidmouth's seafront on Saturday 28th November

And on Friday, the Sidmouth Arboretum hosted a 'tree summit' for groups in the area looking at 'renewing the valley's forests' - all in the context of climate change:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth Tree Summit >>> Friday 27th November

In Friday's Independent, Boyd Tonkin looked at trees and the climate:

Climate change: Is forest renewal the best way to tackle global warming?

Next week's crucial climate summit in Paris will debate how we can cut carbon emissions before it's too late. But what about the natural weapon at our disposal in the fight against global warming: reforestation?
As the old green mantra goes, "think globally, act locally." That helps to explain why, on a gusty and showery November day, I'm not for the moment pondering the fate of Borneo or Brazil but gazing out over the young woodlands that spread over the site of a decommissioned surface coal mine in Leicestershire. Cycle routes now criss-cross this refurbished ground and, even today, visitors fill the Hicks Lodge café. Photographs from the 1990s still depict a hellish late-industrial wasteland, the face of the earth scraped and flattened into swathes of ugly black scar-tissue. These days, as Sam Lattaway – head of landscape and biodiversity for the National Forest – has just told me, Hicks Lodge is "probably the best place in the area for bird-watching. If you're up there in the summer, you will hear skylarks, you will see lapwings. Twenty years ago, when I worked in mining, that was an operating open-cast mine."
Our home-grown National Forest, which is gradually greening more than 200 square miles of Staffordshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire, ranks as a tender sapling in a vast, dark wood. As the great climate-change circus rolls into Paris for the "COP21" conference of the United Nations, the vital role of the world's woods as both casualties of environmental ruin and potential saviours of the planet has begun to creep into the sunlight of public debate. Year by year, the loss of forests contributes an estimated 17 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions: more than every mode of transport. Conversely, the ability of trees to store carbon dioxide in natural sinks – "carbon sequestration" – means that tropical forests alone may remove about a fifth of the chief cause of global warming.
Some of the science remains contested, while profit-driven schemes to "offset" greenhouse emissions by planting distant trees arouse the ire of green campaigns. Even the measurement of deforestation triggers commotion in activist copses. In September, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) issued its latest "Global Forest Resources Assessment". The study calculated that, since 1990, the planet's total forest coverage has declined from 4.13 billion hectares to around 4 billion. Yet those 129 million lost hectares, "a total area about the size of South Africa", hide the good news. The rate of loss has slowed by over 50 per cent. FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva reports a positive "direction of change", with "many impressive examples of progress in all regions of the world".
Green shoots of recovery, perhaps? Cue a storm of dissent about data-gathering methods, with heated exchanges over (say) the value of reports by individual states against remote assessment by satellite. Do the optimists or the pessimists fail to see the wood for the trees? At any rate, the FAO records that, still, "the world's forests store an estimated 296 gigatonnes of carbon", but that degradation has cut capacity by 17.4 gigatonnes since 1990.
Whatever the figures, the carbon-storage treasure secreted in our woodlands is now beyond serious dispute. Dr David Coomes, reader in forest ecology and conservation at Cambridge University, confirms that "there is no question that forests serve globally as major sinks of carbon". Despite kneejerk doom-and-gloom, he points to successful programmes to limit deforestation and repair degradation in Brazil. "For the past seven or eight years, it's definitely been a source of inspiration and a good example of why we should not despair. They have protected large areas of the Amazon and committed resources to the restoration of the Atlantic forest." Although no panacea, forest renewal still looks like one of the sharpest weapons in the scanty armoury of large-scale measures to mitigate climate change. To Dr Coomes, "the silver bullet is still flying. We ought to continue to be optimistic about this."
We need every bullet we can find. This summer, more than 120,000 forest fires on carbon-rich peatlands in Indonesia pushed the country's daily CO2 emissions above those of the US. They struck at least 560,000 people with respiratory ailments, killed a minimum of 22, blanketed South-east Asia in the worst toxic haze since 1997 – and, most likely, made a future fortune for the oil-palm barons behind many of the criminally-set blazes. Greenhouse-gas statistics aside, the eyes and lungs of scores of millions have just experienced the scourge of deforestation.
Compared with the inferno of Sumatra, or the wilderness of parts of Amazonia, an afforestation project like Britain's National Forest may look about as fragile as a twig in a typhoon. Its new woodlands, which began to rise in the early 1990s, knit together former pit villages, market towns, clay-and-gravel works and farmland into a patchwork of varied landscapes. The area has seen 8.5 million trees planted and its "forest cover" – not always uninterrupted woods – rise from 6 to 20 per cent. These 7,000 hectares of fresh woods will cancel out 2.7m tonnes of CO2 emissions over 50 years.
Last year, the forest welcomed almost eight million visitors: to lakes, commons and leisure facilities, as well as into the woods. In English usage, the forest has always meant more than the trees. For Lattaway, "I think of 'forest' more in the medieval sense, rather than wall-to-wall trees." To John Everitt, chief executive of the National Forest Company (an agency sponsored by the Department of Environment), "the principles we want to promote are building on those traditions of having a mixed, mosaic landscape. We're not trying to create intensive forestry here."
National Forest planting of English oak in Feanedock Wood, Derbyshire (Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION)
Literally, as well as figuratively, great oaks sprout from tiny acorns. The seedlings of the 1990s now reach above adult heads. Everitt notes that "at the outset, you've got trees that are a foot tall in the ground. Taking people to that and saying, 'This is a forest', is quite a leap of faith." Now, "the next generation are planting young trees in an emerging forest. We've carried a generation with us." Meanwhile, buzzards fly in the sky and otters swim in the rivers. Lattaway has a wishlist of further reintroductions: woodpeckers, owls, but sadly not red squirrels. This low-conifer landscape simply would not suit them. "Admittedly, they tend to be quite charismatic species that people are going to get excited about. You're not going to find many slugs on that list."
Everyone – in the developed world at least – loves trees and wants to see more. As an aesthetic choice or a social duty, reforestation predates the discoveries of climate science by centuries. In his classic ramble through the forests of the world, Wildwood, the nature writer Roger Deakin quotes WH Auden: "A culture is no better than its woods." Governments began to grasp the value not only of keeping but reviving them long before the news of global warming hit.
In England, which contrary to Robin Hood myth has largely lacked dense woodland for most of its recorded history, protection dates back at least to the "Charter of the Forest" in 1217. That mandated penalties for "waste and assart": unauthorised felling and enclosure. In modern times, the much-maligned Forestry Commission began its march in the 1920s. It covered tracts of treeless terrain with the drab coniferous carpet that earned it such a bad name.
In contrast, traditional broadleaf species – such as oak, ash and birch – account for 87 per cent of plantings of the National Forest. As Lattaway makes clear, no one wants monocultural plantations. "You can plant trees willy-nilly. The challenge is creating new woodlands that contribute to wildlife, to public access, to health and welfare." In Britain as a whole, forest cover has reached 12 per cent: low by world standards, but a steep increase on a century ago.
Some other countries have gone much further, much faster. On a visit to Korea, I was astonished, and delighted, by the picturesque wooded hills that – against every expectations of a concrete Asian metropolis – not only surround Seoul but stretch down almost into the gardens of the city-centre royal palaces. They did not just survive by chance. More than anywhere else on Earth, South Korea re-grew its lost forests as a state priority after the ravages of the Korean War and breakneck modernisation. Under the National Reforestation Programme begun by President Park in 1962, cover rose from 35 per cent in the mid-1950s to 64 per cent today. It took paternalistic, even authoritarian, oversight, under the slogan: "Cutting trees is evil; planting trees is patriotic." But it worked.
Above all, Korea regained its forests because the country got rich. A recent report by the Korean Forest Service on the lessons learned from its half-century of re-greening charts the reduction of losses through wood-fuel harvesting, illegal logging or slash-and-burn agriculture. It concludes that "the underlying cause of all of these drivers was poverty". Hence the thorny paradox of many reforestation schemes. More affluent people no longer need to chop or burn down woodlands. Yet, as in Korea, the pursuit of affluence may have helped to raze those forests in the first place. Korea has had six post-conflict decades to study the problem and systematically address it. Elsewhere, time is running out.
As the clock ticks towards a level of global warming beyond the UN threshold of two degrees, advocates of climate-change mitigation have sought a quicker fix. Set up in 2005, under the UN's Kyoto Protocol, the so-called REDD+ mechanism allows for the creation of a "compliance carbon" market. Those assets stored in CO2-neutralising trees have become a tradeable resource. CO2-belching corporations can purge their emission sins in freshly seeded woods. REDD+ remains intensely controversial. Radical ecologists deplore the marketisation of a natural process, and the potential injustice of trapping poor people in a cash-forest that they merely curate for a pittance.
Serious money has certainly fallen in love with tall trees. The London-based Permian Global, for instance, finances forest recovery projects in Latin America and Asia run according to "the highest social and environmental principles", and sells the "high-quality verified carbon credits" they generate. It is headed by Stephen Rumsey: a life-long conservationist, and formerly a pension-fund manager and head of debt markets for Barclays. State actors also play their part. A billion-dollar deal with the Norwegian government helped Brazil to slash its forest loss. "Economically, it's not going to work against oil-palm" in still-smoking Indonesia, says Dr Coomes about the REDD model of transactions. However, "it could be effective against cattle-ranching" in Amazonia. "It's not a be-all-and-end-all, but that's no reason to discount it altogether. It's a financial mechanism to protect the forests, and there aren't many of those."
Back at the National Forest HQ in the former pit village of Moira, John Everitt has begun to pilot a carbon-finance project on a more neighbourly scale. "We want to move away from the idea of 'trading'," he explains. "If you plant trees, in 50 years' time they will have sequestered an amount of carbon. That carbon has value, and that value can be charged out to people who want to pay for it." Companies will "have to make a commitment to keeping the trees for a 50-year period". Lattaway admits: "Offsetting makes me nervous. It shouldn't be greenwash. You minimise and you mitigate wherever you can. And whatever's left over that you can't avoid, you offset that." Above all, Everitt wants local businesses – many attracted by the amenities of the forest – to balance out their CO2 emissions by investing, quite specifically, in their own woody backyard.
Forest life and death: fire fighters and local civilians struggle to put out fires in forest and peatlands in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, last month (AFP/Getty)
On both its ethical and economic branches, the carbon-offset business has a lot of growing still to do. Clearer, and less contentious, are the social benefits that woodlands bring. Around the National Forest, schoolchildren plant trees; families dedicate them to loved ones; farmers and landowners raise woods to diversify their income. Forest industries support 300 jobs; leisure and tourism over 4,000 more. Everitt cites the grounds of a stately home that, newly forested, can now host livery stables, festivals, weddings, shoots. A 75-mile walkers' route snakes across this mix-and-match landscape: not a spectacular showcase, but a patchwork re-greening that runs with the grain of the past. Lattaway insists that "we're not removing the evidence of what was there before". The "Black to Green" project celebrates local mining history: "We don't want to wipe that out of existence." Spoil heaps, as yet unclothed in trees, still dot the country around Moira and Donisthorpe. No one wants to re-name nearby Coalville.
Everitt contrasts his mission with the conservation paradigm of, say, an officially designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. "We're creating heritage, whereas a lot of those other places have heritage that they're protecting. I think it's a really interesting distinction." To Lattaway, "it's a plus-point for us, a selling point. Every time you come, it will have changed."
Even magnified a thousand-fold, across the tropical carbon sinks of Kalimantan, Madagascar or Minas Gerais, in Brazil, initiatives such as the National Forest can hardly hold back the emissions tide. That will take the sort of binding global deal that Paris aims to deliver. As Dr Coomes reminds me, "The bottom line is that any seemingly intractable problem cannot be solved overnight."
Still, new woods, wherever they grow, bring new hope – locally or globally. Like the living things they are, they also change. Healthy forests mature, mutate, even die. "The woods decay," as Tennyson wrote in Tithonus. "The woods decay and fall." They may also rise again, as in this modestly mingled coal, clay and farming country of the Midlands. "At the risk of throwing off silly sound bites," says Lattaway, "this is just the next stage of evolution."

Climate change: Is forest renewal the best way to tackle global warming? | Environment | The Independent