The Wildlife Trusts call for nature to be at the heart of economic recovery – not simply an ‘add-on’

The Wildlife Trusts are deeply disappointed by today's Government announcement to spend billions on roads at a time when serious investment in nature could address the twin emergencies of our age - climate change and nature loss - as well as provide jobs and improve people's lives.

Today the Prime Minister announces a new deal for Britain “which puts jobs and infrastructure at the centre of the government’s economic growth strategy.”

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s speech, Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“Today the Government has announced billions for road building projects and just £40 million for nature. This is hugely disappointing. Serious investment in nature could provide a green recovery which addresses the twin crises of our age – climate change and loss of the natural world – while simultaneously providing many more jobs. Instead, the Government have chosen to spend billions of pounds on roads which will take us in precisely the wrong direction and mean that we keep lurching from one crisis to another.  

Serious investment in nature could provide a green recovery which addresses the twin crises of our age – climate change and loss of the natural world – while simultaneously providing many more jobs.

“It’s vital that we look to solutions that will help address nature loss and climate change, not make them worse. An economic recovery which puts investment in nature first would reap big dividends in tackling climate crisis – helping to absorb up to a third of UK emissions* – as well as tackling health inequalities, and providing more jobs, skills and opportunities to support the next generation.”

In his speech, the Prime Minister made specific reference to building fast and removing wildlife that presents an obstacle. The Wildlife Trusts are extremely concerned that this would jeopardise species such as dolphins, bats and newts and also the abundance of our wildlife that is already deeply depleted. The Habitats and Birds Regulations have been reviewed by DEFRA numerous times and in 2012 were declared fit for purpose.

Craig Bennett continues:

“Nature has provided people with much solace during this crisis – and we know that we need nature not just for health and wellbeing but also because restored natural habitats can capture carbon. Investing in roads will put more cars on the road. Continuing with business as usual, investing in the polluting infrastructure of the past and undermining vital environmental protections, will mean nature continues to lose out and will leave us open to the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

“Next year, the eyes of the world will be on the UK as it takes the presidency of the G7 and hosts the COP26 climate conference. As the Government looks to get the economy back on its feet, it must show the world that Building Back Better means putting nature at the heart of our economic recovery – not simply an ‘add-on’.

“If the Government is serious about keeping its manifesto pledge to develop “the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth”, it must step up its ambition and lead the world in delivering a green economic recovery.”

Commenting on the creation of a new Conservation Rangers programme, Craig continues:

“As Britain’s largest conservation volunteering organisation, The Wildlife Trusts have close to 40 years’ experience of delivering employment and training programmes based around restoring nature. Programmes such as Our Bright Future are an effective route through which young people can gain the skills, confidence, and motivation to move into employment, whilst helping to restore green spaces and allowing nature to recover.

“The creation of a new Conservation Rangers programme can play a vital role in helping to provide the new capabilities needed to help the UK meet its 2050 net zero target and restore nature. But it must be supported by long-term funding for nature’s recovery and restoration projects on land and sea across UK.

“We know it costs around £7,500 to train a ranger for three months. Scale this up and you get some idea of the level of investment really needed to sustain these schemes.”

Today, The Wildlife Trusts are supporting over 10,000 people from across the UK in a ‘virtual’ mass lobby of Parliament, calling on their MPs to commit to a green recovery. More information here.

Notes for editors:

*See report: Let nature help – how nature’s recovery is essential for tackling the climate crisis’

Our Bright Future is a programme of 31 projects across the whole of UK, led by The Wildlife Trusts, that brings together the environmental and youth sectors. To date, the programme has engaged more than 115,000 young people and helped them gain more than 6,200 qualifications, as well as supporting the improvement and creation of more than 2,800 green spaces, through a variety of conservation tasks.

Trainees in conservation – one example: London Wildlife Trust's Keeping it Wild is an ambitious project, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund, that will empower and inspire 600 young people aged 11-25, from backgrounds currently under-represented in natural heritage, to gain vital skills while discovering, conserving and sharing their experiences of the capital’s wild spaces.