Budget 2020 – significant new funding needed to restore nature and tackle climate change

The Government has today unveiled its first Budget since the general election.

In the run up to two major UN environmental conferences taking place this year – COP26 in Glasgow and the Biodiversity Convention in Kunming – today’s Budget is a major test of the Government’s ambition to demonstrate world leading action at home to reverse nature’s decline and put us on a path to net zero carbon emissions.

The 2019 Conservative manifesto pledged to “prioritise the environment in the next Budget” with investment in nature, including a £640 million new Nature for Climate fund.[i]

Natural solutions have a big part to play in tackling the climate crisis. Healthy natural habitats can store huge amounts of carbon, and restoring our damaged, fragmented and threatened wild places is essential if we are to reach net zero.

The Wildlife Trusts are playing a leading role in making this happen, with projects around the UK improving, expanding and protecting the wild places that are key for capturing carbon. We are therefore pleased that the Chancellor today pledged to use the new Nature for Climate fund to protect, restore and expand vital habitats, including planting around 30,000 hectares of trees and restoring 35,000 hectares of peatland.

Joan Edwards, Director of Public Affairs and Marine Conservation at The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“We are facing two inextricably linked crises – the climate emergency and the massive decline of nature across the globe. The Government’s Budget has recognised that we cannot solve one crisis without tackling the other.

“The Nature for Climate fund could help restore vital habitats, such as peatlands and saltmarshes, which have huge potential to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as well as helping nature to recover. It is essential that this is done as part of a wider national Nature Recovery Network to restore ecosystems and give wildlife space to adapt and thrive.

“But for this to be a truly green budget, the Government must ensure new spending announced on road infrastructure does not come at the expense of nature. It is vitally important that we protect our remaining wild places – for the benefit of people and wildlife.”

Bogbean growing on a bog peatland at dawn

Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Spending on nature needs a significant increase

Key to delivering the Government’s ambition stated in the Budget of “leaving the environment in a better state for the next generation” will also be the Environment and Agriculture Bills, which are currently making their way through Parliament.

The Environment Bill introduces a new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) to ensure compliance with environmental law, as well as measures to create Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRSs), which could be key to supporting the creation of a Nature Recovery Network. The Agriculture Bill changes how taxpayers’ money is spent on farmers and land managers – instead focusing on environmental ‘public goods’.

Adequate investment will be needed to support the outcome of both these Bills. In the Environment Bill, the new Office for Environmental Protection should have enough funding to properly hold the government to account, and the Chancellor should guarantee sufficient resources for local authorities to create Local Nature Recovery Strategies. Furthermore, crucial to the success of the Government’s new agriculture policy will be guaranteed long-term funding to deliver public goods. Analysis by The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and National Trust shows that at least £3 billion is needed to support our farmers and land managers to help restore nature and tackle climate change on their land.

Despite ongoing wildlife declines across the UK, government spending on environmental protection has repeatedly been cut, with spending on biodiversity decreasing by 34% since 2013/14.

Natural England, the government's adviser for the natural environment, has had its budget cut by 47% since 2010, limiting its capacity to carry out its core functions. This has left Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) – some of our best sites for wildlife and geology – unmonitored and unprotected[ii].

Joan Edwards continues:

“Cuts to spending on biodiversity and environmental protection has left some of our most precious places for nature at risk and unchecked.

“With one in seven species threatened with extinction[iii], funding for Defra and its statutory agencies must be given a hefty increase to help tackle the ecological crisis. Without it, we will continue to lose yet more wildlife.”

ENDS

 

[i] Conservative Manifesto, page 7 & 43 https://assets-global.website-files.com/5da42e2cae7ebd3f8bde353c/5dda924905da587992a064ba_Conservative%202019%20Manifesto.pdf

[ii] ENDS Report - Almost half of SSSIs not monitored for more than six years: https://www.endsreport.com/article/1528029/almost-half-sssis-not-monitored-six-years

[iii] State of Nature 2019 Report: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/news/no-let-net-loss-uks-nature