An important moment: the climate and nature debate

Thursday 28th November saw the first ever debate on the climate and nature emergencies between party leaders. So why was this debate so important?

Despite increasing awareness of the challenges faced by our natural world, we are not acting in a joined-up way to tackle these problems head on. Policies and practices often act in isolation and can even contradict each other. There’s a focus on protecting individual sites, whilst allowing nature to be lost more widely. Trees are planted to capture carbon, whilst the destruction of carbon-rich habitats such as peatlands continues. Intensive farming practices, that lead to loss of soils, release a lot of carbon, and harm the pollinators which we all depend upon, continue to be rewarded.

Thousands of Local Wildlife Sites, the backbone of our valuable wildlife areas, are in a poor state due to inadequate management and development.

Not only that, there is a severe lack of investment in nature, which makes it hard for the Government’s statutory bodies, such as Natural England and the Environment Agency, to do their jobs properly.

Abbotts Hall Farm, Essex Wildlife Trust

Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

What are natural climate solutions?

Natural climate solutions are habitats and ecosystems which have the potential to soak up and lock away vast amounts of carbon. Forests are a well-known natural solution, but other habitats are also vital for fighting climate change. These key habitats include saltmarsh, seagrass beds and peatlands, which are all at risk.

Intertidal saltmarshes are one of the most important habitats for soaking up carbon, and yet 85% of their historic global coverage has been lost.

Seagrass beds store around twice the amount of carbon per hectare as terrestrial soils. Although they occupy less than 0.2% of the ocean floor, they’re believed to be responsible for about 10% of the annual ocean storage of carbon!

Peat is a carbon storage superstar. It only covers 3% of global land surface but contains 30% of all soil carbon. However, 80% of peatlands in the UK are degraded through burning, drainage and forest plantation.

The destruction of these habitats greatly hinders our chances of combatting climate change. Their recovery must be a priority.

How can we change things?

All is not lost. We can turn the tide on nature decline and climate change, but we must act now.

We want party leaders to:

  1. Commit to an ambitious Environment Act with legally binding targets to restore nature

    This should include a Nature Recovery Network, which would map important areas for wildlife and look at how to protect and join these areas up, creating corridors to allow nature space to move and thrive. This Act also needs a powerful, independent environmental watchdog, to ensure policies are correctly implemented.
     

  2. Commit to an Agriculture Bill that pays farmers to help wildlife and restore our countryside

    Public money should be used for the good of everyone. By introducing this strong Agriculture Bill, farmers would be supported to help create a landscape of connected habitats. Soils would be restored, safeguarding future harvests and locking away carbon. Important pollinators would have access to more, better quality, habitats.
     

  3. Commit to revive our marine environment

    Our seas need a network of Highly Protected Marine Areas and a new Marine Strategy, to guide how we develop at sea, how we fish within environmental limits and how we restore our marine ecosystems to support plentiful fish and wildlife and draw down carbon.

 

You may have tuned in and now want to know how you can make a difference. If you want to ask these questions of your own parliamentary candidates, we have a handy guide for you here