Where is the world's largest Christmas tree?

Reese Witherspoon and the Obamas light this year's National Christmas Tree. Image: Getty.

It's Christmas in just over a week, and if you're anything like us, you're just starting to think about maybe going to buy a Christmas tree. 

To whet your appetites for all things evergreen, our friends at Statista have made us this attractive chart showing where the tallest trees in the world are located. The data is a little inconsistent – some are the record height for that city, while others are a height consistently hit every year – but all have in common the fact they're made of Christmas tree materials. 

If those last three words confused you, let us elaborate. Some of the trees on the list below are traditional trees, grown out of the ground, all in one go. But some are built by Christmas tree builders (yes, this is a job) by riveting together lots of bits of other Christmas trees. This, according to the people who decide these things, still qualifies as a tree. Go figure. 

Click to expand.

The tallest tree of all, in Dortmund, Germany, is a prime example of this more creative approach to tall trees. At around 46m or 150 feet tall every year, it is enormous, the King Kong of Christmas trees: 

Image: dortmunderweihnachtsmarkt.de.

The tree weighs around 40,000 kg, takes four weeks to construct (a job done in recent years by the Weise construction company) and is coated in 48,000 electric lights. It forms the centrepiece of Dortmund's Christmas market, which draws thousands of tourists and kind of explains why the relatively small German city invests in a 40 tonne Christmas tree every year. 

At the other end of the scale is the White House's National Christmas Tree, transported down every year from Alaska and usually standing between 30 and 40 feet high. This is an honest-to-God tree, unaugmented by bits of other trees. It is, however, surrounded by smaller versions, which in turn represent the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the five territories:

London's tree, standing at 65.6 feet in Trafalgar Square, has been gifted every year since 1947 by the people of Oslo as a gesture of thanks for Britain's support during the Second World War. This year's model, however, has been criticised for being a "bit wonky", and had to be straightened after it was erected: 

Perhaps as a result of these attacks, the tree has established a pushy and emotionally needy Twitter presence which inserts itself into any conversation about the tree, Trafalgar Square, or anything remotely related to itself:


Given it's only eighth on our list, perhaps it's suffering from short-tall-tree syndrome. 

 
 
 
 

To make electric vehicles happen, the government must devolve energy policy to councils

The future. Image: Getty.

Last week, the Guardian revealed that at least a quarter of councils have halted the roll-out of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure with no plans to resume its installation. This is a fully charged battery-worth of miles short of ideal, given the ambitious decarbonisation targets to which the UK is rightly working.

It’s even more startling given the current focus on inclusive growth, for the switch to EVs is an economic advancement, on an individual and societal level. Decarbonisation will free up resources and push growth, but the way in which we go about it will have impacts for generations after the task is complete.

If there is one lesson that has been not so much taught to us as screamed at us by recent history, it is that the market does not deliver inclusivity by itself. Left to its own devices, the market tends to leave people behind. And people left behind make all kinds of rational decisions, in polling stations and elsewhere that can seem wholly irrational to those charged with keeping pace – as illuminted in Jeremy Harding’s despatch from the ‘periphery’ which has incubated France’s ‘gilet jaunes’ in the London Review of Books.

But what in the name of Nikola Tesla has any of this to do with charging stations? The Localis argument is simple: local government must work strategically with energy network providers to ensure that EV charging stations are rolled out equally across areas, to ensure deprived areas do not face further disadvantage in the switch to EVs. To do so, Ofgem must first devolve certain regulations around energy supply and management to our combined authorities and city regions.


Although it might make sense now to invest in wealthier areas where EVs are already present, if there isn’t infrastructure in place ahead of demand elsewhere, then we risk a ‘tale of two cities’, where decarbonisation is two-speed and its benefits are two-tier.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced on Monday that urban mobility will be an issue for overarching and intelligent strategy moving forward. The issue of fairness must be central to any such strategy, lest it just become a case of more nice things in nice places and a further widening of the social gap in our cities.

This is where the local state comes in. To achieve clean transport across a city, more is needed than just the installation of charging points.  Collaboration must be coordinated between many of a place’s moving parts.

The DfT announcement makes much of open data, which is undoubtedly crucial to realising the goal of a smart city. This awareness of digital infrastructure must also be matched by upgrades to physical infrastructure, if we are going to realise the full network effects of an integrated city, and as we argue in detail in our recent report, it is here that inclusivity can be stitched firmly into the fabric.

Councils know the ins and outs of deprivation within their boundaries and are uniquely placed to bring together stakeholders from across sectors to devise and implement inclusive transport strategy. In the switch to EVs and in the wider Future of Mobility, they must stay a major player in the game.

As transport minister and biographer of Edmund Burke, Jesse Norman has been keen to stress the founding Conservative philosopher’s belief in the duty of those living in the present to respect the traditions of the past and keep this legacy alive for their own successors.

If this is to be a Burkean moment in making the leap to the transformative transport systems of the future, Mr Norman should give due attention to local government’s role as “little platoons” in this process: as committed agents of change whose civic responsibility and knowledge of place can make this mobility revolution happen.

Joe Fyans is head of research at the think tank Localis.