Petition Restore nature on a massive scale to help stop climate breakdown

To avoid a climate emergency we need to act fast. Rewilding and other natural climate solutions can draw millions of tonnes of CO2 out of the air through restoring and protecting our living systems. We call on the UK government to make a bold financial and political commitment to nature's recovery.

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We need to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate breakdown. To do this we need both to reduce carbon emissions and to remove carbon from the atmosphere. By drawing down carbon, nature's recovery can help us reach net carbon zero.

We have a chance for the UK to become a world leader in natural climate solutions. Those who manage our land and sea play a pivotal role and should be supported to come together to deliver carbon reductions.

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Government responded

This response was given on 2 May 2019

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges we face. Nature-based solutions are key to tackling climate change. The Government is deploying such solutions to improve our natural environment.

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Climate change is one of the most urgent and pressing challenges we face today. The UK is acting to tackle it, including taking action to restore nature.

The 25 Year Environment Plan (25YEP) signals a step-change in ambition for the natural environment in England. It commits the Government to improving the condition of our protected sites network and to creating or restoring 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat in England, as part of a Nature Recovery Network to protect and restore wildlife. Within our draft Environment Bill, we have committed to place the 25YEP on a statutory footing. The Bill will include ambitious legislative measures to take direct action to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age, many of which are linked directly to climate change: air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency, and water resource management.

Our woodlands and wetlands provide vital services, such as carbon sequestration and flood prevention that can help to mitigate climate change and help us adapt to its impacts. Tree planting is one of the main contributors to nature-based carbon sequestration and the Government supports this in a number of ways. Our manifesto committed to planting 11 million trees by 2022, and in addition a further 1 million trees in our towns and cities, and we also have a long term aspiration to increase woodland cover from 10% to 12% by 2060. To achieve these goals, in the Autumn Budget the Chancellor announced £10 million for an Urban Trees Challenge Fund and £50 million to help plant new woodlands through the Woodland Carbon Guarantee.

Peatlands are our largest terrestrial carbon store. Drained peatlands release their carbon, adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Organic or peat soils make up 11% of England’s total land area, over 70% of which are drained or in poor condition. We have committed to publishing an England Peatland Strategy. The strategy will set out our vision to reverse decline in peatlands and restore them, which is in line with the Government's commitment to be the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than we found it. Work is underway on four large-scale peatland restoration projects across England, to which we have allocated £10 million, and will restore 5,851 ha of degraded peatlands.

Natural England have an ongoing uplands programme working with landowners to put in place Long Term Management Plans to reverse degradation and help them sustainably manage and restore upland peatland habitats. We will also be setting up a Lowland Agricultural Peatland Taskforce to assess how best to restore and sustainably manage England's peatland, which provides essential food and fibre for the UK in lowland settings. Once restored, our healthy functioning peatlands will provide a range of public benefits in addition to carbon storage, including flood mitigation and biodiversity rich habitats.

Under the new Environmental Land Management Scheme we will pay land managers public money for public goods, including mitigation of climate change. Land managers could deliver this by sequestering carbon through, for example, peatland restoration and tree planting.

Internationally, the UK is also supporting ambitious action by countries and companies to combat deforestation and promote the sustainable management of the world’s forests through our international climate finance (ICF). The Department for International Development (DFID), the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) all contribute to the UK’s £5.8 billion overall climate finance commitment from 2016 until 2020/21. ICF programming aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and land use change and help forest communities adapt to climate change through sustainable farming and land use practices.

For example, Defra’s current ICF investments aim to protect and restore more than 500,000 hectares of forests, delivering 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions savings. In Madagascar, our Blue carbon project will protect and restore 20,000 hectares of mangrove forest through community forest management, benefiting over 100,000 people with the development of sustainable livelihoods. Our project in Brazil will protect 100,000ha of forest in the Amazon, Atlantic Forest and Cerrado regions and support over 5,000 small and medium sized farmers by helping them to transition into low carbon sustainable agriculture.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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