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Nature coalition welcomes major milestone toward wildlife recovery

Wildlife and Countryside Link welcomes the Government’s nature restoration plans, announced today (Tuesday 18 May).

2030 Species Recovery Target

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:

“This is a tremendously important milestone toward world-leading environmental law and we look forward to seeing the Government’s commitments translated into strong legal provisions in the Environment Bill.”

“The Government has accepted the principle that we need a legally-binding target to halt the decline of wildlife. If the legal detail is right, and the targets are comprehensive and science-based, then this could inspire the investment and action needed to protect and restore wildlife, after a century of decline.

“Of course, we await the detailed legal proposals needed to ensure the target is robust and well-enforced, but we welcome this important response to the State of Nature campaign, which has been supported by 160,000 people and over 60 nature charities.”

Peat Action Plan

Richard Benwell said: “The Government’s intention to phase out the use of horticultural peat is excellent. Previous efforts have failed, so we hope the Government will expedite consultation to ensure that new regulations are agreed this year.”

“Thirty-five thousand hectares of peatland restoration is a really welcome start, but this is only around five percent of England’s peat. [1] Further regulation to stop wildlife destruction, incentives to reward regeneration, and public investment in restoration will all be needed in the years ahead. Not only is peatland restoration great for wildlife and climate, it’s also a fantastic opportunity for Government to create green jobs in areas with higher unemployment as part of levelling up plans.[2]”

Tree Action Plan

Richard Benwell continued: “New funding for more trees in our countryside, farms and cities will give a vital boost to nature-rich woodland, with benefits for wildlife, climate and people’s wellbeing.”

“Government should guarantee that the large majority of new trees will be native, broadleaf species that enhance nature. Any windfall for commercial forestry, which is already well-rewarded in the market, could undermine the environmental benefits of these proposals.”


ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  1. Over 60 charities are campaigning for a State of Nature target to halt the decline of habitats and species in the Environment Bill, including RSPB, the Woodland Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, Wild Justice, the National Trust, WWF and the Mental Health Foundation: State of Nature Campaign (wcl.org.uk)
  2. Campaigners wrote to the Prime Minister to demand the Environment Bill was amended: Dear Prime Minister State of Nature target Feb 2021 (1 March 2021).pdf (wcl.org.uk)
  3. Over 160,000 people have signed a petition calling for a State of Nature target.
  4. In the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, the Government backed an international ambition to halt nature’s decline by 2030, ahead of global nature and climate talks later this year. Leaders' Pledge for Nature (leaderspledgefornature.org)
  5. There are 682,200ha peatland in England (see Table 2 on ONS) of which 355,000ha is upland peat. The Committee on Climate Change has recommended that all upland peat and at-least a third of lowland peat must be restored in order to limit climate change.
  6. Along with tree planting and urban parks, peatland restoration could create 16,050 jobs across the UK

Factfile:

Peat

  • The Office for National Statistics estimates that fully restoring the UK’s degraded peatlands could cost between £8bn-£22bn over the next 100 years, but would save £109bn in terms of reduced carbon emissions.
  • Only 20% of the UK’s peatlands are considered in a “near-natural” state. The remaining 80% have been modified, with some agricultural, horticultural and forestry practices leading to loss or degradation of the peat ecosystem.
  • The UK’s peatlands contain approximately 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon. However, due to its poor condition, much of the UK’s 2.6 million hectares (ha) of UK peatland is no longer actively capturing carbon. Estimates suggest it could be emitting 23 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year. This equates to approximately half the amount released through the nation’s agricultural sector.
  • The highly distinctive conditions created by most UK peatlands (water-logged, acidic, low nutrient) mean many species of birds (e.g. the golden plover and hen harrier), mammals, invertebrates and plants found in them are specialised to some degree, and therefore dependent on the existence of these habitats. Some of these species are regionally or nationally rare, such as the large heath butterfly and the swallowtail butterfly.

Trees

  • The United Kingdom’s forests currently store 1.09 billion tonnes of carbon and sequester about 4.6% of the country’s total emissions
  • Friends of the Earth research suggests that there is potential land available to double England’s tree cover without impinging on mapped priority habitats, designated sites, or valuable farmland
  • Urban trees have huge potential for carbon capturing, alongside wildlife benefits. For example, Leicester covers 0.03% of Britain’s land area but accounts for 0.2% of Britain’s aboveground carbon store. Approximately 97% of this is attributable to trees
  • The Woodland Trust ‘State of Trees report’ highlights that while UK’s woodland cover has more than doubled in the last 100 years, much of this has come from non-native trees. Existing native woodlands are isolated, in poor ecological condition and there has been a decline in woodland wildlife

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Nature coalition welcomes major milestone toward wildlife recovery