Today’s announcement by Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has disappointed hopes of a green recovery – his only reference was to energy efficiency in homes. The Wildlife Trusts recently published a report which highlighted the role that restoring nature can play in tackling the climate crisis, creating green jobs and benefitting people’s wellbeing. Nature is in sharp decline and restoring it can have multiple benefits.
Commenting on the Chancellor’s economic recovery announcement today, Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“The money allocated in the Government’s recovery package to help restore nature falls embarrassingly short of what is needed tackle the twin emergencies we face – climate change and nature loss. While other countries are setting out bold green stimulus packages, the Government is investing just 0.15% in nature projects compared to the £27bn investment in destructive new road building schemes.
“The Government’s own advisor on climate change has said investment in nature should be a priority as we seek to rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic[i] - offering a quick route to opportunities for highly-skilled employment, while improving people’s lives and tackling climate change. It’s clear that this advice has been largely ignored and that the recovery will come at nature’s expense.
“Proposals to rip up vital environmental protections in the planning system and repeated delays to the Environment Bill – once described by the Prime Minister as the “huge star”[ii] of the Government’s programme – means the Government is a long way off track in keeping its promise to build back greener.
“The Wildlife Trusts, alongside other environmental charities, have submitted over 300 ‘shovel-ready’ green recovery projects to Government[iii]. These could start immediately and would help protect vulnerable species and tackle climate change, and create thousands of jobs in the process. They’d also provide better access to nature communities and improve people’s lives. It’s time the Government committed a green recovery and properly invested in nature’s recovery to deliver it.”
The Wildlife Trusts' report Let nature help – how nature’s recovery is essential for tackling the climate crisis calls on the Government, industry and local authorities to step-up investment in nature’s recovery and climate change mitigation by:
- Restoring a wide range of land habitats such as grasslands, peatlands and wetlands to store carbon. Government have missed targets to plant trees and help peatlands recover and now must identify, map and protect a wide array of ecosystems and restore them locally as part of a national Nature Recovery Network.
- Restoring nature at sea by introducing effective management for our network of Marine Protected Areas and by designating a suite of Highly Protected Marine Areas. These measures would bring our oceans back to health and enable them to function properly and absorb more human-made CO2 emissions.
The Wildlife Trusts are leading ground-breaking projects to restore and connect habitats across the UK, creating a network of re-wetted peatlands, wet agriculture schemes and new saltmarsh. We also advise thousands of farmers and landowners on how best to care for their land so that it sustains wildlife. Our recent report, ‘Let nature help’ draws on just a few of many Wildlife Trust examples of restored fenland in Cambridgeshire, huge-scale blanket bog restoration in Yorkshire, coastal realignment in Essex and beaver reintroduction in Scotland.
Shovel-ready nature projects
Working with members, Wildlife and Countryside LINK have identified over 300 individual nature projects – from new saltmarshes to restored woodlands – that would enhance 200,000 hectares of natural habitat, provide better access to nature for hundreds of communities, create thousands of jobs and lock away millions of tonnes of carbon. Crucially, the amount of investment required is small, compared to the public benefits unlocked by the projects. These would have cost £315million. The government have announced £40million brought forward from existing budgets for green projects – this falls short of what is needed for nature’s recovery.