Stars turn over new leaf in fight against carbon dioxide emissions

SCOTLAND’S blue chip forest by the shores of St Mary’s Loch, near Selkirk, is about to welcome a distinguished addition to its impressive portfolio when MTV Europe joins Avis Cars, Barclay’s Bank, Railtrack, and a host of others as stakeholders in the 40-hectare woodland.

Energy resources used in tonight’s MTV Europe Music Awards hosted by Ali G - or at least those resources producing carbon dioxide emissions - will be neutralised by "gold standard" tree-planting at Dryhope Burn, paid for by the TV company.

Across south-west Scotland, Pink Floyd will pay for the pollution emanating from the manufacture of their new CD with ten hectares of tree planting at the Rainton Cream of Galloway Forest.

These are just two of the latest recruits joining the bands, pop groups, showbusiness personalities, multi-national companies, and events as members of the Carbon Neutral Network. In theory the trees will absorb an amount of carbon dioxide equal to that produced by each network supporter.

The sixth of a hectare of land and 200 trees which MTV will trade for their ten tonnes of gases will see the last piece in the carbon offset jigsaw at Dryhope.

But there are proposals for new plantations at locations throughout the Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, and further north where negotiations with landowners are advanced.

This novel way of paying for pollution with a piece of new native woodland is the brainchild of Dan Morrell, founder of London-based Future Forests.

The idea was hatched six years ago, and Mr Morrell’s first supporter was Rodney Bickerstaffe, the general secretary of the trade union Unison. They too occupy a small corner of Dryhope, close to the BRIT Awards 2001, Whole Earth Foods, and the Groucho Club.

"We now have about 120 star names who have joined our Carbon Neutral Network together with 12,000 individuals with an interest in the environment," said Mr Morrell. "It is encouraging that polluters in this country and around the world are doing something to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Scientists at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management (ECCM), leaders in the field of carbon footprinting, work out the area of forestry required to absorb each client’s carbon emissions.

The tree-planting earns its gold-standard tag because the agreements with landowners are for 99 years, varieties such as oak, birch, ash, and rowan are the main species used in the planting schemes, and public access to the forests is encouraged. There are added advantages with long-term natural forestry providing new habitats for wildlife. Mr Morrell said: "You can make anything and everything carbon neutral - events, products, facilities or processes."

Adele Robertson, one of the ECCM staff , said the ten hectares at Rainton to be planted on behalf of Pink Floyd accounted for 567 tonnes of carbon emitted during the creation of the group’s new album.

The MTV contribution at Dryhope will absorb an estimated ten tonnes, but some of the company’s offset would be going into other sites south of the Border, said Ms Robertson.

Avis Europe offset carbon emissions by planting one tree per car for its 18,000 fleet.

In the case of the BRIT Awards this year the electricity used by the 10.5 million people who watched the show on television was taken into the ECCM equation. The exercise resulted in 2,000 trees being planted to get rid of the estimated 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide generated by the event.

The work of Future Forests is not confined to the UK. For example, some of Pink Floyd’s offset will find its way into Mexico and India.

Yaluma in the Mexican highlands is being planted with indigenous pine and oak following the degradation of huge areas of the landscape.

One of the main carbon dioxide absorbing projects in India involves mango tree planting in the state of Karnataka.

Closer to home the reforestation of Dryhope Burn involving Borders Forest Trust, in partnership with landowners, sees an end to extensive grazing which has largely taken out the native birch, blackthorn, rowan and willow trees. Now the lochside landscape will be enjoyed by generations to come.

Mr Morrell’s client list for his Carbon Neutral trademark include Fulham FC, Spandau Ballet, Norwich and Peterborough Building Society, Pet Shop Boys, Glastonbury Festival, and Perth and Kinross Council.

He can also call on celebrity endorsees such as the football manager Kevin Keegan, the TV personality Jonathan Ross and the fashion designer Stella McCartney.