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“Britain aims to plant 143 million new trees a YEAR by 2035”

From The Daily Mail:

The number of new trees planted across the UK per year is set to rise to 143 million by 2035 in a massive bid to meet climate targets.

The ambitious programme, easily the biggest in 50 years, will see a doubling of the planting of woodland to almost 80 million in the next four years. Due to be published in the next two weeks, the plan will controversially turn swathes of farmland, areas of natural beauty and even national parks into forest…

Sir William Worsley, chairman of the Forestry Commission, admitted that finding land to plant [trees] is a ‘real challenge because we live in a small country’.  He added: ‘We’ve got to find the right land. It’s not the top of our moors, it’s not on deep peatland. But there’s a lot of poor sheep land on the sides of the valleys that could well be suitable for tree planting.’  

There are far more important things to consider than just absorbing a bit of CO2 while they are growing. And knowing the Tories, they’ll probably pay land owners to plant trees.

The natural state of the British Isles (and most of north-west Europe) is forests and we cut them all down for agriculture. We now subsidise farm land (enouraging people to clear woodland) but tax their farming profits. On the other hand, the subsidies to land used for forestry are low or non-existent, but profits from forestry are exempt from income and corporation tax.

This is what you might call an incoherent muddle! Far better to apply a modest LVT (in the region of £20 per acre per year?) on all undeveloped land and exempt farming profits from income and corporation tax and exempt farm and forestry workers from PAYE to level the playing field bewteen farming and forestry (is there really a clear dividing line anyway?), all on a fiscally neutral basis*.

That gets rid of swathes of overlapping bureaucracy and wouldn’t require subsidies for tree-planting. The most marginal land – the steepest hillsides and areas prone to flooding – would be abandoned and return to their natural state i.e. woodland and forests. Apart from being a haven for wildlife and a nice place to go for walks, trees are very good at trapping water, thus reducing flood risks further down the valley. No LVT would be collected from these now abandoned areas, but so what? The wider benefits are worth far more than £20/acre (or whatever low figure we choose).


* What are the net revenues from farming and forestry (i.e. tax revenues collected minus subsidies paid out)? Farm and forestry workers pay PAYE and farming profits are taxable (forestry profits are not). Farm land is subsidised, and farming is zero rated for VAT, meaning they don’t have to charge VAT on their sales but can claim input VAT on tractors etc. The numbers are hard to pin down, but my best guess is that the net revenues are about £1 billion. Divide that by 50 million acres non-developed land is about £20/acre per year. So farming and forestry would face the same overall tax bill (after deducting subsidies and VAT refunds) with a modest LVT instead.