Report Calls for Massive UK Re-Wilding Effort to Help Meet Climate Emergency

Proposals published this week by Rewilding Britain suggest a 'post-Brexit transformation' of farm subsidies to encourage a huge re-wilding drive, as a way to help deliver the UK Committee on Climate Change's new zero-carbon target.

The report by the conservation charity proposes large scale woodland regeneration, and the restoration of peat bog habitat and species-rich grasslands, which between them could, it's claimed, sequester about 47 million tonnes of CO2 per year - more than a tenth of current UK greenhouse gas emissions.

Re-afforestation, as here in Glen Affric, could totally transform many of our bare upland valleys  © Dan Bailey
Re-afforestation, as here in Glen Affric, could totally transform many of our bare upland valleys
© Dan Bailey

For outdoor enthusiasts, the knock on benefit would one day be nicer places, and more interesting habitats, in which to go walking - from upland valleys with rich native woodland, to thriving peat bogs on the high moors.

Six million hectares - or around 1/4 the area of the UK - ought to do it, say Rewilding Britain.

The idea would be to put the UK government's declared "public payments for public goods" principle into practice by incentivising farmers and landowners to restore natural habitats - to be paid for with an economy-wide carbon pricing mechanism. This would cost around £1.9 billion per year, they calculate, a third less than the current estimated EU Common Agricultural Policy cost of £3 billion.

Rebecca Wrigley, Chief Executive of Rewilding Britain, said:

"We need new thinking and practical action if the UK government is to meet its long-term and legally-binding commitments to combat the catastrophic effects of climate breakdown.

"In the last few weeks we launched a petition calling on the government to make a financial and political commitment to restore nature on a massive scale to help address this. We've had over eighty-nine thousand signatures – with the greatest support coming from people in rural areas.

"We are calling for more public debate around how our countryside is managed in the future – how we balance farming sustainably with ensuring local people can make a viable living.

"Our report demonstrates how land use change with nature at its heart can play a major role in our efforts to meet our targets and address climate breakdown. We want the government to use the increasing sense of urgency as an opportunity to radically review how land is managed in the UK.

"These proposals build on existing indications of a change of approach in land use – for example the UK government's policy of "public money for public good" and the National Farmers' Union commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2040.

"We need to listen to people directly affected and work constructively to avoid the kind of polarisation we've seen triggered by Brexit. We must come together to address the threat to us all."

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