environment sustainability

Britain’s land use

Last week the Centre for Alternative Technology launched the latest edition of the Zero Carbon Britain report. It’s a framework for moving Britain to a sustainable, postcarbon way of life, and it looks at energy, transport, waste and land use. It’s an ambitious but practical plan, but the thing that caught my eye most of all was a simple graphic of Britain’s land use. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it presented like this, so it was rather enlightening.


The table above shows Britain’s land as a series of coloured-coded squares, each representing a million hectares. I didn’t realise how much of our land is given over to lifestock, although it makes sense as you stare out the train window and see the endless fields of sheep. Built-up urban land is also put in perspective.

The second table shows land use in the Zero Carbon Britain scenario. The amount of land for livestock is dramatically reduced, re-forested as commercial woodland for carbon capture or biomass. Less food is grown as fodder and more of it is grown for humans.

The role of the report is to square the circle, prove whether it’s even possible to talk about a Zero Carbon Britain. How you get from one table to the other is of course a different matter.


  1. Why not have an acceptable, absorbable level of carbon use. This can be obtained without any techno fixes or change of consuming lifestyle – in the UK use user friendly methods of reducing the population to 5 -10 million as obtains in most Scandinavian countries (Iceland has 300,000 and is not poverty stricken)
    Not a quick fix but the best.

    1. And you are going to volunteer for a trip to Dignitas (seems fairly user friendly) or not have any children? Seems only fair to do what you ask of others.

      What if most people don’t want to forswear reproduction? Do we choose who can have kids to get our population down?

      The massive population reduction answer is just repellent.

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