Hinterland - 09March 2020

Hinterland this week - unexpected negative consequences of one size fits all national policies, a vision of life without farming, the challenges of de-crabonisation through a rural lens and finally – “Were you born in a grain store?!!”

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‘Completely out of touch’: NFU president hits out at reports senior government official said UK doesn’t need farming industry

Surely advisers should be allowed to think the unthinkable? I can however understand why this sort of thinking has drawn the response from the farming lobby it has!!! This story tells us:

The president of the National Farmers’ Union has hit out at “completely out of touch” suggestions from a senior government adviser that the UK does not need its own agricultural sector.

There were reports that Treasury official Dr Tim Leunig claimed the food sector was not “critically important” to the country’s economy – and that agriculture and fisheries “certainly isn’t”.

In leaked emails published in The Mail on Sunday, the economic adviser to the chancellor Rishi Sunak is reported to have said ministers could follow the example of Singapore, which is “rich without having its own agricultural sector”.

The agriculture and fishing sectors combined represent less than 1 per cent of the UK’s economy. But rural and coastal communities voted out in large numbers during the 2016 referendum after the Vote Leave campaign argued that farmers and fishermen would be better off once free of EU rules.

The government distanced itself from the official’s comments, adding: “We have made it clear the comments are not in line with government policy.”


Give rural people hit by wood burner crackdown state cash

This article demonstrates the case for rural proofing of this policy. It rightly suggests that rural dwellers affected by this urban policy should be compensated. It tells us:

Public Health England estimates that the health impact from long-term exposure to particulate pollution is equivalent to 29,000 deaths each year. Not only does air pollution make people unwell and cause suffering, but it increases costs and puts pressure on the NHS too. Public Health England warns that the costs of air pollution to society could exceed £5.1bn by 2035 if nothing is done. 

Through the groundbreaking Environment Bill, which has started its passage through Parliament earlier this week, the Government will set a new legally-binding target for PM2.5, recognising its uniquely dangerous effect on our health. But the easy part is setting the target. The hard part is taking action to cut emissions. 

There are a number of ways in which particulate emissions from solid fuel burning can be reduced. Upgrading an open fire or an old stove to a modern, efficient stove is one option.


In bid to cut transport emissions, UK government wants to introduce lower carbon fuel to gas stations

Another example of a national policy which discriminates against rural dwellers. This article tells us:

The U.K. government is to consult on introducing a lower carbon fuel to gas stations, a move that could cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the transport sector.

The fuel in question is called E10, which contains as much as 10% bioethanol in its mix. At the moment, E10 is not available in the U.K., although the government said Wednesday that the blend was used in a number of other countries including Germany, France and Finland.

Currently, unleaded petrol in the U.K. has up to 5% bioethanol in its mix, with this type of fuel called E5.

The government said the E10 blend could potentially reduce CO2 emissions from transport by 750,000 tons annually, which equates to removing approximately 350,000 cars off the road.

“The next 15 years will be absolutely crucial for slashing emissions from our roads, as we all start to feel the benefits of the transition to a zero-emission future,” Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said in a statement Wednesday.

“But before electric cars become the norm, we want to take advantage of reduced CO2 emissions today,” he added. “This small switch to petrol containing bioethanol at 10% will help drivers across country reduce the environmental impact of every journey.” 

Williams went on to explain that some retailers would “also not have the capacity to be able to provide both E5 and E10 fuels on forecourts, so the impact is likely to be most keenly felt by those with incompatible vehicles in rural areas.”


Spend £8bn to kickstart plan to decarbonise economy, chancellor told

Lord Stern is the seminal thinker and writer on climate change and if he is suggesting this to our new Chancellor, he should definitely listen! This story tells us:

The author of a groundbreaking report on the economic impact of climate change has called on Rishi Sunak to spend more than £8bn in his first budget next week to kickstart a “massive and long-term” boost to “zero-carbon infrastructure, new skills and sustainable innovation”.

Lord Stern said the new chancellor had a unique opportunity to address regional inequalities and invest to meet the government’s target for net-zero emissions with measures already highlighted in the Conservative party manifesto.

Stern, who runs the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, told Sunak to focus his efforts on sectors that are “difficult to decarbonise”, such as transport, property and industry.

Sunak is known to be hurriedly rewriting his budget speech for 11 March and earmarking funds to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, possibly delaying measures to improve the UK’s infrastructure.

But he is expected to signal extra spending in the regions over the life of the parliament to 2024, to support Britain reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The report recommends the government use £6.3bn committed for energy efficiency in the 2019 election manifesto to reduce energy waste in buildings, which are responsible for 17% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.


Two-thirds of UK homes 'fail on energy efficiency targets'

I would venture to guess that there is a higher proportion of rural houses in this less energy efficient category as a consequence of the age and nature of much of our housing stock. This story tells us:

Nearly two thirds of UK homes fail to meet long-term energy efficiency targets, according to data analysed by the BBC.

More than 12 million homes fall below the C grade on Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) graded from A-G. 

It means householders spend more on energy bills and pump tonnes more CO2 into the atmosphere than necessary. 

The government has said it needs to go "much further and faster" to improve the energy performance of homes.

Experts say retrofit measures are needed because so many homes were built before the year 1990.

Dr Tim Forman, a research academic at the University of Cambridge's Centre for Sustainable Development, said now only a national project of a scale not seen since World War Two, would be enough to help Great Britain meet its 2050 net zero carbon target, which was signed into law in June 2019.

EPCs measure the efficiency of a house by looking at how well a property is insulated, glazed, or uses alternative measures to reduce energy use.


And Finally

Rural grain store buildings inspire a minimal extension in the British countryside

Never let it be said that routine old rural buildings are purely functional. This story tells us:

British-French architect Jonathan Burlow has designed a minimal extension to a house in Hythe, Kent. With its large windows, neat brick exterior and pitched roof the extension follows and abstracts surrounding houses, yet has also been inspired by 18th century rural grain store buildings found in the south of England.

Burlow, who founded his studio in 2018, echoed the properties of grain store buildings through the design. Just like the traditional grain stores that were raised upon saddle stones to protect grain from vermin and water seepage, Burlow raised the extension up onto a concrete platform, which extends into the garden to form a simple patio.

This decision expresses the extension is an independent volume – slightly separated from the main house, with a small cantilever over the immediate landscape. While the exaggerated traditional ‘house’ elements such as the pitched roof also unite it.


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


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