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Chancellor urged to commit at least £1.2bn annual nature funding ahead of climate talks

- charities warn wildlife, wellbeing & climate aims could otherwise be missed

20 October 2021

22 nature charities are today urging the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pledge at least £1.2 billion extra each year for nature in the forthcoming Spending Review and Budget on 27 October. [1] The charities are calling for new funding for nature to deliver vital health, wellbeing and economic benefits post-pandemic, limit and mitigate the impact of climate change, and restore British wildlife treasured by the public.

Members of Wildlife and Countryside Link, England’s biggest nature coalition, welcomed the Government’s recent announcement of a legal target in the Environment Bill to halt the decline of wildlife by 2030, following their campaign for a target to improve the State of Nature. They say major public investment will be needed to meet it.

New modelling shows that, unless the Chancellor announces a bare minimum extra investment of £1.2 billion to restore priority habitats and protect wildlife alone, key 2030 nature targets and 2035 emissions targets may be missed. [2] To be confident of achieving its wider environmental ambitions however, UK public spending on nature would have to triple. The current nature spend of £2.2 billion would need to rise to £6.8bn per year in total.[3] This includes funding of:

- £2.262bn per year to restore and protect habitats and species to halt nature’s decline by 2030 across the UK [4]
- At-least £5.5bn over 3 years across the UK to provide health and wellbeing benefits through equitable access to nature
- An additional £501m per year in England to underpin environmental commitments through advice, enforcement, and capacity-building

Restoring biodiversity is central to achieving all the benefits that nature can offer to provide cleaner air and water, tackle climate change, improve public health, boost the economy and provide the resources we rely on, including healthy soils. As well as helping our natural world this public investment would deliver a wealth of benefits for people, the economy and the National Health Service. It is estimated an extra £5.5bn spend over 3 years on greater access to enhanced nature alone would provide £200bn in healthcare benefits, deliver around 40,000 jobs, and help in levelling-up by providing 3,500 deprived communities across the UK with access to green spaces. [5]

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:
“Barren landscapes denuded of nature, polluted waters choked with sewage, empty seas trawled of life. Years of underinvestment have made the UK one of the most nature-deprived places on Earth.
“Our modelling shows more than a billion pounds of extra investment is needed every year for wildlife—more still for air, water and our seas. But Government is pinning its hopes on policies that won’t kick in for years to come.

“With international climate talks ahead, we will all be rich in rhetoric. But this Spending Review is the best test of whether the Government is serious about our environment. Without an extra £1.2billion a year in public investment, our chances of restoring the State of Nature are surely in doubt.”

Beccy Speight, CEO of RSPB, said:
“Today, the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries on earth because of our historic rates of loss and neglect. And the overall trajectory for nature today is one of rapid decline – this in the teeth of a climate crisis in which nature could be our greatest ally. The good news is that we have welcome new laws and political ambition to reverse this trend and protect 30% of our land and seas by 2030, which would be good for nature and good for carbon. But that cannot become a reality without an immediate step change in the level of government investment. And that needs to happen now while there is still hope of halting and reversing species loss.”

Joan Edwards, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, The Wildlife Trusts, said:
“The latest figures show that the Government spends only £473m a year on restoring nature – that’s just about half the amount spent on the Eat Out to Help Out scheme alone. The Government have recognised the crisis that nature is facing and have committed to reversing its decline. We know that restoring wild places is not only essential for wildlife, it’s absolutely vital for helping to tackle the climate emergency too because healthy habitats store carbon. With just days to go until the COP26 climate conference, now is the time for the Treasury to support this commitment and provide the investment needed to kickstart nature’s recovery and meet our climate goals.”

Rosie Hails, Nature & Science Director at National Trust, said:
“Utilising nature-based solutions such as natural flood-management, wetland creation, wildflower field margins, urban greening and wider biodiversity restoration are all highly effective ways to tackle the climate crisis while simultaneously restoring our lost wildlife. Investment by the Chancellor in nature-based solutions ahead of the Glasgow climate talks would be a hugely welcome measure towards addressing both crises, at the same time as generating wider returns through improved environmental quality for people.”

Craig Macadam, Conservation Director of Buglife, said:
“We face an enormous national and global challenge to restore our natural world. Growing numbers of species are at risk of extinction, and the abundance of insects and other wildlife is in freefall. But Government spending priorities do not reflect the need to address the biodiversity crisis. We need the Treasury to show its commitment to the Government’s ‘Green Vision’ by substantially investing in nature now. Nature cannot afford yet another decade of broken promises.”

Tom Fewins, Head of Policy and Advocacy at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust said
: “We wholeheartedly support the call for new funding to be made available for nature at the Spending Review and Budget on 27 October. Without adequate funding there is less we can do on the ground to create and restore diminishing and threatened wetland landscapes and support struggling species. We are calling for a blue recovery, where 100,000 hectares of healthy wetlands are created around the UK to help deal with climate change, and combat the related nature and wellbeing crises. Without a Green Spending Review, we may struggle to meet this target, and struggle to achieve what’s needed to help protect our planet. Vital post-Covid funding could help to get nature and climate out of the red zone and allow the government to fulfil its promise of putting a green recovery at the heart of building back better after the pandemic.”

The charities argue that new green policies—including Environmental Land Management farming payments, and biodiversity net gain requirements in the planning system—could eventually provide a large share of funding. But these new policies are not expected to take effect for several years and will not provide major new investment until the end of the Spending Review period. This leaves a substantial “hungry gap” in environmental funding. The Green Finance Institute recently commissioned research, estimating a £44-97billion 10 year public sector funding gap for nature-related outcomes. The widest funding gap within the UK was found in England, with biodiversity restoration and protection and bio-carbon climate mitigation measures least well-funded.

The next three years will be critical to the Government’s chances of meeting targets to halt nature loss and protect 30% of land and sea by 2030, and to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. But the dramatic gap between existing funding commitments and the level of investment needed, will severely limit the UK’s ability to meet the Government’s nature and climate targets. A ‘business as usual’ spending review would see continued wildlife loss, underinvestment in cost-effective nature-based solutions to climate change, unsustainable development, and ongoing public health and nature access inequalities.

Natural History Museum and RSPB research, shows that the UK has the highest rate of nature loss in the G7, and is among the worst 12% globally. We have lost 97% of our wildflower meadows, 92% of our carbon-capturing seagrass, and treasured species risk extinction, including a quarter of British mammals such as the water vole, hedgehog, hazel dormouse, and grey long-eared bat. But success stories like thriving reintroduced red kites, beaver reintroductions, re-establishment of field cricket populations, and recent hen harrier recovery, show there’s hope if we invest the resources needed to restore nature.

Brits consistently rank the environment among the top three ‘most important issues facing the country’ (see YouGov’s issues tracker), but only 28% think the Government is doing enough to protect and enhance nature. [6] Government spending on the environment (excluding climate action) has stagnated over the last decade despite the urgency of the nature crisis, with less spent on environmental protection in 2019/20 than in 2010/11. Less than 4% of Government spending is on nature and climate issues with only 0.02% of GDP (£473m) spent on restoring nature in 2018/19, less than the £500m spent on pothole repairs. [7]

As well as a lack of investment for nature restoration and access, regulators and enforcement agencies are also underfunded. Although Natural England’s budget has recently risen to almost £200m, the main regulator the Environment Agency is clearly struggling on an inadequate budget. Despite an increase in remit the agency has almost a fifth (17.8%) fewer permanent staff than a decade ago.

There is therefore a clear and urgent need for additional nature investment directly from the Treasury in the Spending Review.


Notes to editors:

1. Nature organisations which support these calls include: A Rocha UK, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, League Against Cruel Sports, Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, British Mountaineering Council, Wildlife and Gardening Forum, Open Spaces Society, Friends of the Earth, Marine Conservation Society, National Trust, Naturewatch, Butterfly Conservation, RSPCA, Rewilding Britain, RSPB, Plantlife, Woodland Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, Wildlife and Countryside Link

2. Detail on £12bn figure see Table 1, (priority habitats and species recovery), in page 5 of Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Comprehensive Spending Review submission here

3. See full calculations and methodology in Wildlife and Countryside Link Comprehensive Spending Review submission, see above link.

Calculations do not account for some spending in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland on environmental policies and enforcement. Figures exclude some funding needs in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for: river basins and river catchments; regulatory and enforcement bodies; farm advice.

4. This figure excludes funding needed for river basin management and river catchments in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland

5. See section 4.2 in the above CSR submission



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Nature coalition welcomes major milestone toward wildlife recovery

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