Environmental groups can apply for up to £5m of funding from Green Recovery Challenge Fund, as government seeks 5,000 green jobs boost
The government has kicked off the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, in a bid to support thousands of jobs across the UK in areas such as tree planting, nature conservation, and other nature-based initiatives while slowing the decline of nature loss and curbing climate impacts.
Environmental charities and their partners can now apply for grants worth between £50k to £5m from the new funding pot, which was announced in late June by the Prime Minister ahead of the government's summer mini-budget.
The £40m fund is specifically geared at labour-intensive projects focused on nature conservation and restoration, delivering nature-based solutions to climate change, and schemes that "connect people with nature".
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said the "game-changing fund" would help the UK "build back greener" from the pandemic, while also halting the loss of wildlife and tackling climate change.
"Our ambitious fund will help environmental organisations employ more people to work on tree-planting, nature restoration and helping the public enjoy the outdoors, and I encourage organisations to step forward and apply so we can make a real difference to nature whilst also creating jobs," she said.
The fund, which aims to create 3,000 jobs and safeguard up to 2,000 others, is supported by £10m from the Nature Recovery Fund and £30m of Nature for Climate Funding.
The fund will be be delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment.
Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd said the fund was a "step in the right direction" that would help the UK economy become more competitive. "Reaching net zero by 2050 and achieving the government's 25 Year Environment Plan goals for nature can only be done by employing the right skills," she said. "A lack of STEM skills is estimated to cost industry £1.5 billion a year in recruitment, inflated salaries, and additional training costs."
Natural England chair Tony Juniper also touted the fund as a major boost for those seeking a career in the environmental sector. "Access to a thriving natural environment is essential for the nation's health and wellbeing, and this fund will deliver real on-the-ground benefits for people and wildlife alike as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis," he said. "This fund will also provide a long-term boost for those wanting to build a career in the environmental sector, and help secure a flourishing environment that we need for a healthy future."
Groups seeking more than £250k must submit expressions of interest by 24 September and full applications by 26 October. The deadline for all other applications is 2 October.
The launch of the fund today comes as reports in The Times this week suggested that Number 10 is mulling a major programme of tax breaks and infrastructure investment to set the UK on track to meeting its net zero emissions goal while ensuring a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
According to the newspaper, the Prime Minister is preparing to respond to growing calls for new net zero policy measures with a speech that sets out how the UK could meet its 2050 decarbonisation target, and provides clarity on the government's preferred timeline for the phase out of conventional gas boilers and petrol and diesel cars.
Meanwhile, in an op-ed published on BusinessGreen today, Kemi Badenoch, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, reiterated the government's intention to "build back not only better, but sustainably" and drive economic growth across the country's regions in the wake of the pandemic.
Badenoch argues that such a recovery would not only generate economic opportunities domestically, but would also cement the UK's position as a leader on a global stage as the nation prepares to host the COP26 climate conference. "Through our COP26 Presidency we will galvanise international action to ensure a clean and resilient recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and demonstrate that combatting climate change and achieving economic growth are not mutually exclusive," she writes.
The Minister adds that an interim progress report on the Treasury's ongoing Net Zero Review, designed to analyse the costs associated with delivering net zero, will be published this autumn.
The flurry of green moves from the government follows months of criticism over the UK's failure to set out a strategy to put it on track to meet its net zero emissions target for 2050, which yesterday saw the CBI become the latest major business group to call on Ministers to deliver a more comprehensive decarbonisation strategy. Meanwhile, a new report from RSPB last week alleged the country's progress against its long term biodiversity goals is worse than previously thought.
And in related news, oil giant BP this week joined its rival Shell in signalling it would support moves by the government to bring forward the date for banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars.
The government is currently committed to ending the sale of conventional cars by 2040, but has conducted a consultation on pulling the date forward to 2035 or earlier. A decision on the new date is expected in the coming weeks.
BP boss Bernard Looney yesterday confirmed the company, which has committed to becoming a net zero emission organisation and drastically increasing its investment in clean technologies, would join green groups in welcoming an earlier phase out date. "Whether that is 2035, 2032, or 2030, we are up for it - and, importantly, up for the measures and supporting policies to boost electrification and hydrogen in transport that would make it possible," he said.
A new report argues that with demand for clean hydrogen set to boom, the nascent mocular reactor industry could have a key role to play in meeting surging demand
Hubbub report reveals widespread support for policies to curb environmental impact of clothing industry
Tech giant unveils plans for new Climate Science Information Centre as it pledges to reach net zero emissions across its value chain by 2030
New paper assesses a variety of existing net zero target setting practices and proposes conditions that effective targets must meet