330 'ready-to-go' nature recovery projects across England could generate some 10,000 jobs 'in the short term', according to Wildlife and Countryside Link
Conservationists have urged the government to make nature restoration a key pillar of its forthcoming economic recovery package, claiming it could create thousands of jobs across the country while tackling biodiversity loss and the climate crisis.
Environmental coalition Wildlife and Countryside Link has today presented a list of 330 "ready-to-go" nature recovery projects to the Treasury as contenders for financial support, arguing that the package could create around 10,000 jobs within months.
Government investment in the projects could help tackle rising unemployment and propel the country closer to a number of its environmental goals, many of which are critical to the government's 2050 net zero ambition, the campaigners said.
The proposed projects are spread across England and vary from innovative new solutions to well-tested approaches, ranging from coastal realignment and wildflower restoration programmes to micro forest creation schemes. The coalition stressed that all of the projects are scalable, so that they can be replicated in multiple locations to meet local needs, creating further jobs in the future.
For example, one of the project's on the shortlist provided to the government today is the RSBP's Haweswater Change Project, a trial in upland land management on a National Park in the Lake District which seeks to increase carbon storage while reducing flood risk to homes and providing sustainable livelihoods to local farmers.
Wildlife and Countryside Link's chief executive Richard Benwell stressed Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who is set to unveil a major economic stimulus package in July, could help the country "grow back better" if he backed nature restoration schemes.
"Investing in nature can provide a short-term boost with thousands of jobs, and it can provide long-term, cost-effective protection against costly risks like flooding, soil degradation, and climate change," Benwell said. "Helping the poorest, most nature-deprived communities first can help improve people's way of life at the same time as helping wildlife. This is the Chancellor's chance to grow back better by including funding for these projects in July's budget announcement."
By investing in the initiatives, the government could deliver two-fifths of the 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat the government promised to create or restore in its 25 Year Environment Plan in "just a few years", the campaigners emphasised. The proposed schemes would also capture around three million tonnes of carbon dioxide, allow the UK to meet its annual woodland planting targets, and "give a lifeline" to hundreds of threatened plant, animal, and fungi species, the group said.
Should the government opt to go further and use its stimulus package to deliver all 500,000 hectares of restored habitat targeted in the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Wildlife and Countryside Link estimates that some 25,000 jobs could be generated.
It remains to be seen what will be included in the government's recovery package. Reports have suggested that Ministers are looking to create thousands of green jobs in carbon capture and storage (CCUS), hydrogen, active transport, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and building efficiency programmes. But campaigners are also concerned that some crucial climate policy and funding decisions could be deferred until a second wave of support is announced in the autumn.
Campaigners are also concerned that new green stimulus programmes could neglect the necessary measures to reverse continued biodiversity loss and lack the ambition to chart the UK on a path towards net zero emissions by mid-century,
Earlier this month, a coalition of NGOs and business groups, including WWF, the International Chamber of Commerce and United Nations Global Compact, urged the private sector to "speak up for nature" and encourage political leaders to embrace economic policies and packages that prioritise nature restoration. And more than 50 UK charities wrote to the Prime Minister to demand that his government implement a 'green recovery' plan that involves working with the international community to rapidly reverse the decline of biodiversity and nature.
Martin Harper, director of conservation at the RSPB, urged the government to rebuild the economy along climate-friendly lines. "How and where our governments choose to invest will shape the kind of world that we build out of this crisis," he said. "If we make the right choices the benefits are clear: reduced exposure to the risks of environmental breakdown; economies and communities which are resilient to shock; a healthy, thriving population; and natural assets that can sustain us long into the future."
The intervention comes ahead of the publication this week of the Committee on Climate Change's latest review of the UK's progress against its climate targets, which is expected to include considerable criticism of the government's climate resilience and wider policy efforts. The advisory body is also set to put forward wide-ranging recommendations on how to engineer a low carbon recovery, which are likely to echo a raft of reports in recent weeks advising Ministers to use the proposed stimilus package to drive increased investment in green infrastructure.
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