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Government warned nature targets will be missed without more investment

5 November 2020

  • Environmental groups welcome the launch of Natural England’s Nature Recovery Network partnership today, but warn that the Government’s flagship Nature Recovery Network commitment will face critical delay or failure without additional funding.

  • Government funding for green recovery projects is almost 10X oversubscribed reveal new figures

    The top nature charities in the country are today warning the government that a lack of investment in nature could mean delay and default on key environmental targets, including 500,000 hectares of new wildlife habitat as part of a Nature Recovery Network.

    In an open letter sent to the Chancellor today, environment groups say that £1bn capital investment is needed in green projects to set nature on a path to recovery on land and at sea.

    The warning comes as a Parliamentary Question from Ruth Jones MP, revealed that Defra’s £40m Green Recovery Challenge Fund, which aims to kick-start environmental renewal and create green jobs, is oversubscribed by almost £330m.[1] Shovel-ready green projects requiring £368million of funding were submitted to the fund, almost ten times the amount of funding available.

    The groups say that increasing the funding available to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund would deliver wildlife-rich habitat in every corner of the country in the next financial year. They warn that Government promises of a green recovery need to be backed up by real investment.

    Natural England is today launching its Nature Recovery Network Delivery partnership.[2] This collaboration of government, industry and environment groups aims to jointly deliver a connected and expanded network of green spaces across the country. This would help to restore nature, tackle climate change and improve people’s well-being.

    Environment groups are a key part of delivering the network, but with funding having dried up in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis many of their projects which would feed into this network are unlikely to be able to go ahead.

    Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “The promise of a Nature Recovery Network is a brilliant commitment to weave wildlife and wilder places back into the fabric of our lives. We owe it to nature and to all the people who are living nature-deprived lives. Charities hard hit by covid-19 have brought forward bold proposals which would bring life back to the economy and communities. But the Network needs new investment from Government to succeed.

    Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust said: “The need for all of us to tackle the nature crisis grows more acute by the day. Along with other charities, we cannot respond at the scale and the pace needed without further Government investment to support projects that will reverse the decline in nature and address the climate emergency. If this country’s economic recovery is going to be sustainable, it must be rooted in nature.”

    Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The Government’s own advisor on climate change has said investment in nature should be a priority in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. It offers a quick route to opportunities for highly-skilled employment, providing on-your-doorstep nature for people and tackling climate change.

    “It’s clear from the huge interest in the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund that, with the right support, The Wildlife Trusts and others stand ready to kickstart projects to help create a national Nature Recovery Network. If the Government is committed to reaching at least 30% of our land and sea to be connected and protected for nature’s recovery by 2030, it’s time it was backed up with real investment.”

    Darren Moorcroft, Chief Executive of the Woodland Trust, said: “Addressing the nature and climate emergency has to be tackled head on which is why we are pleased to be part of this co-ordinated approach from Natural England. More than a map, the Nature Recovery Network must be a living, interconnected and coherent network of habitats across England, giving wildlife the space to recover and thrive. The Woodland Trust, as ever, stands ready to play its part. Through engagement with the partnership, we hope to demonstrate and inspire others to see the essential role that native woods and trees play in the recovery of nature, but for the partnership to succeed it must be backed up with resources to allow that to happen. It’s not enough to invest just time and words. Significant financial support must be forthcoming too.”

    Other quotes from Whale and Dolphin Conservation and Rewilding Britain are available here

    Many green charities are having to put on hold nature recovery projects due to a drastic reduction in their income this year as a result of COVID-19. The organisations recognise that incomes have fallen across the board for businesses and charities alike. But they highlight that without action now, environmental degradation will bring deep and long-lasting costs to the economy. These include pollinator losses and soil degradation reducing food production, increased fire risk, flood and drought jeopardising homes and people’s access to water, and the effects on people’s physical and mental health from lack of access to a healthy natural environment.

    The charities also argue that Natural England must be funded better to fulfil its role in developing and monitoring the Nature Recovery Network, pointing to recent reports showing Natural England’s budget had fallen by 72% and permanent staff numbers by 20% in the last decade, having a significant impact on its functions.

    Nature charities are urging the Chancellor to commit to meeting the shortfall in the shovel-ready projects put forward to the Green Recovery Challenge Fund as part of £1bn new funding for green recovery projects in the Spending Review expected on 25 November. This green investment is vital to deliver a more resilient economy for the future, which creates green jobs, helps meet net zero climate change targets, and ensures that every community has access to a healthy environment.


    Notes to Editors:

    1. The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is frontloaded funding from a £640M Nature for Climate Fund. Plans for the remaining Nature for Climate Fund remain uncertain, and are expected in the Tree Strategy and Peat Strategy which have been delayed. They are likely to focus on carbon sequestration through restoring peatlands and planting trees, and are unlikely to fulfil the need for investment focused on biodiversity.

    2. The Nature Recovery Network (NRN) aims to deliver an expanded, improved and better-connected set of wildlife-rich places across England that will recover our wildlife and benefit people by enhancing the natural world and the benefits it provides – from carbon capture and flood management, to the pollination of our crops. It could improve access to green and blue space where we live, work and play, helping address three of the biggest challenges that we face: biodiversity; climate; health and wellbeing.

    The following organisations have signed the letter to the Chancellor
    Hilary McGrady, Director General, National Trust
    Beccy Speight, CEO, RSPB
    Craig Bennett, CEO, The Wildlife Trusts
    Dr Darren Moorcroft, CEO, Woodland Trust
    James Robinson, Director of Conservation, WWT
    Christopher Price, CEO, Rare Breeds Survival Trust
    Ian Dunn, CEO, Plantlife
    Andy Knott MBE, CEO, League Against Cruel Sports
    Dr Tony Gent, CEO, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
    Prof Alastair Driver, Director, Rewilding Britain
    Brian da Cal, Director, Four Paws UK
    Sandy Luk, CEO, Marine Conservation Society
    Julie Williams, CEO, Butterfly Conservation
    Paul Coulson, Director of Operations, Institute of Fisheries Management
    Chris Butler-Stroud, CEO, Whale and Dolphin Conservation
    Hugo Tagholm, CEO, Surfers Against Sewage
    Dr Steve Head, Coordinator, Wildlife Gardening Forum
    Sally Hamilton, Director, ORCA
    Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary, The Open Spaces Society
    Jill Nelson, CEO, People’s Trust for Endangered Species
    Caroline Ruane, CEO, Naturewatch Foundation
    Tanya Curry, Interim CEO, The Ramblers
    James Thornton, CEO, ClientEarth
    Kit Stoner, CEO, Bat Conservation Trust
    Mark Lloyd, CEO, The Rivers Trust
    John Sauven, CEO, Greenpeace UK
    Dr Richard Benwell, CEO, Wildlife and Countryside Link

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