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Twenty-five thousand jobs could be created through government investment in a green recovery

Investment in nature recovery could provide a major boost in employment in England and help create a more resilient economy as part of a green economic recovery from Covid-19 according to new figures put together by conservation groups. In addition, it would also help Government and society tackle the nature and climate crises.

list of 330 projects that are ‘ready to go’ – including a mix of well-tested and innovative approaches, from micro forests to huge coastal realignment schemes – has been put together by Wildlife and Countryside Link to showcase the scale of opportunities available for England through a green recovery. In the short term, these projects could support around 5,000 jobs in the environment sector and 5,000 jobs in delivery, plus supply chain benefits.

Additionally, if the government delivers on its ambition in the 25-year plan for the environment of half a million hectares of restored habitat, this could mean a further 15,000 jobs in other similar projects. The scalability of many of the projects mean that they can be replicated in multiple locations to fit local needs.

Richard Benwell, Chief Executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link said, “Investing in nature can provide a short-term boost with thousands of jobs, and it can provide long-term, cost-effective protection against costly risks like flooding, soil degradation, and climate change. Helping the poorest, most nature-deprived communities first can help improve people’s way of life at the same time as helping wildlife. This is the Chancellor’s chance to grow back better by including funding for these projects in July’s budget announcement.”

Not only would these projects deliver much needed jobs in a post-Covid world, they would also provide a significant boost towards Government nature and climate targets by –

  • Creating or enhancing at least 200,000ha of priority habitat, including woodland, scrub, heaths, bogland, peatland, grassland, hedgerows, marshes, wetlands, streams, rivers, marine and coastal habitats. This would deliver two fifths of the 500,000ha 25-year plan priority habitat target in just a few years.
  • Planting at least 4.5 million trees, helping to meet UK targets to plant 30,000 new hectares of woodland every year, and capturing around 3 million tonnes of CO2
  • Storing a minimum of 100,000 tonnes of CO2 per year initially, rising significantly over time. Early investment in these nature-based climate solutions is essential to delivering the carbon capture levels of matured habitats and trees to meet the Government 2050 net zero targets.
  • Giving a lifeline to hundreds of threatened UK plant, animal and fungi species. From seahorses to hedgehogs, to bats and rare birds. Vulnerable and declining habitats would also be restored.

The 330 projects that span the length and breadth of England would be a good investment for treasury spending. Some of the projects have already been able to provide clear indications of benefits. With a one-off cost of £34m, 23 of these projects are already estimated to have produce at least £160m in environmental and public benefits including flooding protection, carbon storage and improved health.

Examples of projects that are ready to go:

  • Plantlife has a great deal of expertise in the practical restoration of wildflower meadows and pasture. Working in partnership with farmers, communities and local businesses, there is tried, tested and costed model ready to be rolled out across England. To achieve this there needs to be a scaling up of the harvesting, growing and use of native wildflower seed.There also needs to be a scaling up of contractors with the right skills who can carry out this work and deliver restoration and seeding of wildflower meadows. Once restored wildflower meadow management will contribute towards larger scale provision of high-quality grass-fed livestock production, and permanent pollinator habitat beneficial for crops and wildlife. All these will support skilled new jobs in the rural economy.
  • Tiny Forests, a concept developed by Japanese botanist, Dr Miyawaki, are very dense, urban forests, as small as a tennis court. Compared to traditional tree plantations, they pack a huge punch: growing five times faster; absorbing up to thirty times more carbon per acre; and creating habitats for biodiversity. Tiny Forests help mitigate the impacts of climate change, support urban wildlife, and reconnect people with nature. Earthwatch is leading on this exciting new concept in the UK.
  • In the Lake District, the Haweswater Change Project aims to inspire a more diverse and wildlife-rich National Park and demonstrate how changes in managing the land can increase carbon storage and reduce downstream flood risk to protect homes, whilst also providing more sustainable and resilient livelihoods for local farming communities. The RSPB is working in partnership with landowner United Utilities to trial different approaches to upland management with an upland hill farm at its core. The aim is to produce high-quality livestock alongside a range of public benefits, including safeguarding water quality and wildlife.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Director of Conservation said, “How and where our governments choose to invest will shape the kind of world that we build out of this crisis. If we make the right choices the benefits are clear: reduced exposure to the risks of environmental breakdown; economies and communities which are resilient to shock; a healthy, thriving population; and natural assets that can sustain us long into the future.”

Ian Dunn, CEO, Plantlife, said: “A staggering 97% of British wildflower meadows have been eradicated in less than a century and species-rich grassland now covers less than 1% of the UK. This devastation of meadows, and loss of wild flowers like wild strawberry, ragged robin and harebell, is driving disastrous declines in our bee and butterfly populations. The remaining isolated fragments of meadows that have survived the bulldozer or the plough are home to an unprecedented richness of plant species that have evolved over millennia and they must be better protected under law. But protection of existing meadows alone is not enough and we must make creating and restoring meadows, and the myriad of benefits they bring including carbon storage, flood prevention, and water purification, a central plank of the green recovery. To build back better for nature while stimulating a boom in skilled jobs in the rural economy we simply cannot overlook the vitality of creating new and healthy grassland habitats, home to a fifth of all priority species for conservation action.”