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83% of public say Government should offer nature jobs to those unemployed in COVID-19 crisis and beyond

1 October 2020

Nature groups are calling on the PM and Chancellor to announce a major funding package to provide new green jobs and training through nature recovery work, as part of their spending review. The proposals, known as the National Nature Service, would offer living wage jobs on nature projects to those unemployed, as an alternative to Universal Credit, helping to tackle our employment and nature crises, boost our green recovery from COVID-19 and leave a legacy of healthier, greener communities.

The calls come as new research[1] shows there is overwhelming support for the idea that Government should pay for employment in restoring nature and highlights public concerns over the Government’s performance, and lack of investment, in tackling the nature and climate crises. It also follows an alarming series of reports in the last few weeks of UK failures for nature.

The new YouGov research for Wildlife and Countryside Link has found that [2]:

  • 83% of the GB public support the idea of the Government funding jobs to improve nature and offering these to those who are unemployed. This has majority support across all cross sections of the British public – with around 8 out of 10 people of all, ages, social groups, and regions, and Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem voters in Britain all supporting this idea
  • Less than a quarter (23%) of the British public believe the Government is tackling climate change and declines in wildlife well
  • 18-24 year-olds are the most sceptical of how well the Government is dealing with the climate and nature crises, with only 16% saying the Government is doing well
  • Only 18% of people believe that the right level of investment is being made by Government in tackling our nature and climate change crises, with 54% saying there is too little investment, 7% saying there is too much investment, and 20% unsure.
  • 18-24 year-olds feel the most strongly that the Government is failing to invest enough in the environment, with only 12% believing the right amount is being spent
*A breakdown of findings for each question can be found in the notes to editors and datasheet

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link said: ‘We’re in the midst of an economic crisis, an employment crisis and an environmental crisis - and they’re all interlinked. Listening to what the public want and investing more in nature can help provide much needed jobs and a boost for our wildlife and environment. With eight out of 10 of us supporting Government-funded green jobs, a National Nature Service and investment in restoring wildlife habitats have the potential to kick-start a new era for nature and the green recovery from COVID-19 that we so desperately need.’

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB said: “Over the summer we have all been talking about the ‘new normal’ and green recovery. The Chancellor now has the opportunity to acknowledge the economic benefits of investing in the environment to create thousands of jobs and tackle both the climate and nature crisis. The creation of a National Nature Service is an investment in our future, an unequivocal statement that the UK is committed to reviving our world.”

Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “A greener economy is a stronger economy. As we look to the future, it’s crucial that we shift towards an economy that’s designed to protect as well as regenerate the natural world, and to sustain our society which is so dependent on nature.

"Research recently commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts shows that a well-funded, dynamic job and training programme like the National Nature Service would be an effective way to provide young people with the skills and experience they need to secure the jobs that will be a part of making this happen.

"More than at any other time, we must invest in nature and in the next generation. We need to help our young people build up the skills that will enable the transition to a green economy, and in doing so we’ll reinforce the foundations on which much of our wealth, health and wellbeing depend.”

Beth Thoren, Deputy CEO at ClientEarth said: “A green recovery that does not also consider our natural world will, in time, undermine our economy due to flood, food, climate and other risks. This proposal is a smart way to build a more employable workforce, healthier communities and strong ecosystems to support our economy. Can our country afford not to invest?”

A National Nature Service would help to both support nature projects across the country and could create and support tens of thousands of jobs, which is vital given the Bank of England estimates that unemployment rates will rise from 4.1% to 7.5% this winter, with around 2.5million unemployed. The idea is based on the successful ‘Citizen Conservation Corps’ work programme enacted by Franklin D. Roosevelt following the Great Depression, which put 3 million people to work and planted 3 billion trees.

With an initial Government investment of £741 million, a National Nature Service and a pipeline of 300 ‘shovel ready’ nature projects could have 15,000 people at work in 2021, around 10,000 entry-level jobs in 2021, supported by over 5,000 supervisory and expert roles.

This initial investment would:
  • Provide a wide range of entry level jobs nationwide[3], particularly for younger people from disadvantaged backgrounds and BAME groups at higher risk of unemployment[4]. Many of these jobs will be in rural and coastal communities.
  • Give National Nature Service employees transferable skills, environment skills and employability and entrepreneurship skills to prepare them for on-going jobs in nature conservation, in the growing green economy and beyond.
It would also deliver:
  • Green spaces in deprived communities to improve health and mental wellbeing
  • 4.5 million trees planted
  • 100,000 tonnes of carbon captured
  • 200,000 hectares of priority landscapes created or enhanced
  • Communities protected from flooding
  • Help for hundreds of wildlife species
Further annual investment to 2025 could skill people up to access lasting green jobs, which will be needed to deliver the Government's environmental commitments. Measures in the Environment Bill, Agriculture Bill and English Tree Strategy alone are estimated to need 70,000 new nature jobs.

The nature recovery work the NNS would carry out is urgently needed. In just the last few weeks: the UN has revealed a ‘lost decade for nature’ with decade-long global biodiversity targets spectacularly failed; RSPB analysis showed the UK Government has failed 17 of the 20 UN targets; the Living Planet report estimated global wildlife populations have now plummeted by 68% since 1970, and all English rivers and lakes failed chemical pollution tests meaning 0% of surface water bodies are now classed in good health.

Nature groups are also encouraging the public to write to their MP asking them to support Government funding for a National Nature Service, to help kickstart a new era for nature. More information can be found at

The National Nature Service forms part of a wider package being called for by environment groups to kickstart a new era for nature. As part of a package for nature’s recovery environment groups are urging Government to contribute new funding and frontload existing funding towards the estimated costs needed for other key measures to reverse nature’s decline including:

  • An estimated £1 billion annual investment needed in priority terrestrial and marine habitat creation and restoration
  • £3-4 billion annual investment in world-leading, high standards, in food and farming
  • £142 million annual investment in sustainable fisheries and marine protection
  • At least £1 billion investment in levelling up access to nature by creating and improving green spaces, particularly in deprived areas
  • A one-off investment of £150 million in environmental information and data, plus an annual investment of at least £331 million in advice, enforcement and expertise in arms-length bodies and Local Authorities.
  • £6 million annual investment in invasive species biosecurity to prevent a drastic increase in costs to the economy from invasive species damage


Notes to Editors:

1. Wildlife and Countryside Link commissioned You Gov to run GB wide online omnibus polling. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,609 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11-12 September 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). The full results can be viewed here. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by their rules.
2. Breakdowns of some of the responses to the questions can be found below. The full findings can be found here
To what extent would you support or oppose the UK Government offering paid jobs, at the living wage, working on projects aiming to improve UK nature and the environment to those who are unemployed?
● 3% of the GB public say the Government is doing very well at dealing with climate change and declining wildlife, 20% say it is doing fairly well (23% total say it is doing well), 31% say it is doing fairly badly, 29% say very badly (60% total say it is doing badly) and 18% don’t know
● 2% of GB 18-24 year-olds say the Government is doing very well at dealing with climate change and declining wildlife, 14% say it is doing fairly well (16% total say it is doing well), 43% say it is doing fairly badly, 27% say very badly (70% total say it is doing badly) and 15% don’t know
● 0% of GB 18-24 year-olds say there is far too much investment in nature and climate crises, 3% say slightly too much, with 12% saying investment is around the right level (total 15% saying enough or too much investment), 22% say there is slightly too little investment, 39% say far too little investment (total 61% saying too little investment), with 24% Don’t Know
3. The jobs would include roles in estate management and ecological monitoring (such as Trainee Ecologists and Field Officers) and face-to-face and community engagement work (such as Outreach Officers; Education Officers; and Youth Officers) among others. Work could include: creating and managing urban green corridors, parks, forests, community orchards and allotments; habitat creation and management including hedgerows, meadows, ponds, dams and rivers, footpath and access infrastructure creation and management; community engagement and citizen science initiatives; agroforestry and silvopasture projects; and invasive species control.
4. Please see HoC Research Briefing on unemployment by ethnic background which shows that people from some BAME groups have more than double the rate of unemployment compared to those from white ethnic backgrounds. People from Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black ethnic backgrounds had the highest rates (all 8% in April-June 2020 compared to 3% for people of white ethnic backgrounds).
Breaking unemployment down by age 16-24-year old's, consistently have the highest unemployment rate. In August 2020, 526,000 people aged 16-24 claimed unemployment related benefits. This was an increase of 291,000 (124%) claimants from March 2020, when the UK lockdown began. See HoC research briefing Sept 2020 for further key figures. According to the Resolution Foundation, one-third of 18-24-year-old employees (excluding students) have lost jobs or been furloughed during the COVID crisis, compared to one-in-six prime-age adults. 35% of non-full-time student 18-24-year-old employees are earning less than they did prior to the outbreak, compared to 23% of 25-49-year-olds

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