Photo credit: David Gamble


The slow pace of recuperation was a blessing in disguise. Dan spent much of his time sitting in a willow tree beside the river Brue, where he started to get interested in the emerging issues of climate change and human impact on the environment, prompted by James Hansen of NASA highlighting the beginning of global warming in 1988.

Dan began exploring ways to calculate that impact and mitigate it through natural methods such as planting trees to absorb carbon, and that year he offered to plant a tree for the owner of the Castle Cary pet shop, Maureen, who had asked him to offset its carbon footprint. This £3 trade was effectively the beginning of the vast global carbon trading market, while Maureen’s tree has matured into a fine Stella Cherry tree overlooking Castle Cary train station. Soon afterwards, Dan got to know Rodney Bickerstaffe, leader of the trade union Unison, while on a train journey. Bickerstaffe was taken with the idea and promised to share it with his members via their newsletter. A few weeks later a cheque arrived from a docker in Hull, asking for a tree to be planted to offset his carbon footprint. As more and more cheques began to arrive from individuals and businesses large and small, Morrell established a company called The Reforestation Britain Campaign, possibly the first one ever dedicated to addressing the consequences of global warming. This was supported by the AA in 1989, among other companies. These pioneering activities were the start of a remarkable journey which would take him to places ranging from Downing Street to the Oxford English Dictionary, via the United Nations General Assembly.

During these early activities Dan, in conversation with Rima Sams, came up with (and eventually trademarked) a phrase that would go on to enter the vernacular: ‘carbon neutral’. Like many popular phrases it has some limitations, but its value was to simplify and popularise the complex concept of balancing carbon emissions by planting and protecting forests. It also achieved the distinction of appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary and became that organisation’s ‘word of the year’ in 2006.

Lord Nick Stern opening Doha COP 18 Qatar – Celebrating first Carbon Trade and Maureen’s Trees.