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11/10/2021

‘Significant’ increase in peatland restoration and more space for nature needed, says charity

Words: Laura Edgar
Yorkshire peatland / Shutterstock_4244086

More space for nature is required in all built environments and there needs to be ‘significant’ increases of peatland restoration, according to a wildlife charity as it calls on the government to address the nature and climate crises ‘at speed’.

Appealing to the UK presidency of COP26 to tackle the crises together, The Wildlife Trusts says neither will be solved otherwise.

Publishing its COP26 edition of its report Let Nature Help, the charity explains that climate change is driving the decline of nature while simultaneously the loss of wildlife and habitats “leaves us ill-equipped to reduce emissions and adapt to a changing world”.

Last year The Planner reported that Let Nature Help – How Nature’s Recovery is Essential for Tackling the Climate Crisis stated that restoring degraded habitats would see them absorb a third of the UK’s carbon emissions. It explained that the UK’s peatland soils store around 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon, but as they are “heavily degraded” they release the equivalent of 23 million tonnes of CO2 each year.

The COP26 edition of the report notes that individuals have a part to play in solving the crises, but the government must lead the way “by embedding climate action and nature’s recovery across all national policies”.

This, according to the report, is the only way to achieve a net-zero, climate-resilient UK – where nature is “thriving” – by 2050.

The report reiterates the trusts’ call for a Wildbelt to help the government reach its target of at least 30 per cent of land for nature by 2030. In 2020, it said this is “essential” for protecting new land that is currently of low biodiversity value to help nature to recover, while a report by the charity last week said that to secure the future of the land where more space for nature is created, a Wildbelt designation “should be a robust and permanent designation” that protects land in the process of being managed to bring nature back.

The report also states that the legally binding target in the environment bill to halt nature's decline by 2030 must translate into meaningful action on the ground. “It must be supported by an additional £1 billion per annum investment in nature’s recovery.”

Craig Bennett, chief executive at The Wildlife Trusts, says: “Net zero needs nature. Nature needs net zero. Both need to be resilient to the climate of the future. Nature’s fantastic ability to trap carbon safely and provide other important benefits is proven – peatland, woodland, saltmarsh and other wild habitats are vital carbon stores. But these natural places are in decline and face even greater risk of degradation from the extreme climatic conditions that are already inevitable over the next 30 years. It’s becoming a vicious spiral of damage – one that has to be stopped right now.

“In addition to the urgent task of cutting emissions at source, we need to see an enormous rise in the amount of land and sea that’s protected for nature – and increase it to at least 30 per cent by 2030. Also, the government must embed climate action – mitigation and adaptation – across every department and take urgent steps to stop carbon-emitting activities such as new roadbuilding, peat burning and trawling the seabed.”


The Wildlife Trusts has issued a call to the government to:

Planning:

  • Make more space for nature everywhere including in towns and new developments. By 2030 we need to have protected 30 per cent of land and the seas for nature. Create a new designation, Wildbelt, which protects places, including degraded land, that is put into recovery for nature.
  • Ensure that planning reforms deliver the government’s legally binding target in the environment bill to halt species decline by 2030.

Peat:

  • Significantly increase peatland restoration and repair 100 per cent of upland peat before 2050.
  • Implement an immediate ban on peatland burning and end farming on deep peat.
  • Ban the sale and use of peat in gardening and compost products, including imports.

The sea:

  • Implement a ban on bottom-trawling the seabed in England.
  • Give all seagrass habitats highly protected status.
  • Renew pledges to protect coastal habitats and invest more in natural sea defences.

Woodland:

  • Increase the natural regeneration of woods and where this cannot be done, plant resilient native trees instead.
  • Ensure that a mix of trees is planted in every location so as to have the best chance of survival in unpredictable conditions and in the face of increased pests and diseases.

Farming:

  • Give a boost to sustainable farming that locks carbon into the soil and helps wildlife.
  • Publish details on how the Environmental Land Management Scheme will incentivise farmers to manage their land for nature-based solutions.

The COP26 edition of Let Nature Help can be found on The Wildlife Trusts website (pdf).

Image credit | Shutterstock

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