UK must go ‘high nature and low carbon’, government agencies urge

Report from all five UK statutory nature agencies sets out how to reverse the declines in nature the country has suffered.

Peat restoration
Peat restoration

The UK must aim for “high nature and low carbon” to reverse declines in wildlife by 2030, the country’s statutory nature agencies have urged.

In a new report, the organisations call for more action on nature across society.

The suggestions run from protecting land to bringing back lost species, as well as investment and using natural solutions such as restoring peatland to address climate change.

The report warns that the UK is not on track to turn around nature’s fortunes by 2030, but it is “not too late” to reverse the decline. The UK has been said by experts to be one of the most nature depleted countries on earth.

The UK nature agencies, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot, Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, set out how the UK can be “nature positive” – reversing declines in nature by 2030.

Action by national and local governments, businesses, landowners and others will help the UK meet international pledges on nature and help meet the commitment to protect 30% of land and seas by 2030, the organisations said.

Such work will deliver benefits to the economy, and to human health and wellbeing – as seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, when many people sought solace in nature and green spaces. Delays to action will cost more and increase environmental risks.

The report said it was important to align action on climate change and nature, such as restoring peatlands and planting native trees to store carbon and provide wildlife habitat.

There must be increased sources of finance for nature, including private investment, and a switch away from harmful subsidies to payments for supporting nature.

The report also called for protection of 30% of land and sea and ensuring protected areas are well managed to allow nature to thrive, as well as creating more wilder places and linked nature networks.

Extinctions and declines in species must be prevented, lost wildlife should be reintroduced, and air and water pollution need to be tackled.

Fisheries should be effectively managed. The 71% of the UK that is farmed should see changes to subsidies and incentives for high nature-value farming. Farming and supply chains should be made more efficient to reduce demand on the rest of the world.

Natural England chair Tony Juniper said: “Nature recovery is within our grasp – we can become nature positive by 2030, provided we act now.

“We need to go high nature and low carbon, tackling the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change together, and today’s publication sets out how we can do this.”

NatureScot chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “It is everyone’s responsibility to be nature positive.

“We know the twin crises of climate change and nature loss are inextricably linked – we do both, or do neither.”

Clare Pillman, chief executive of Natural Resources Wales, added: “Restoring nature is our primary defence against climate breakdown, and this report demonstrates the collective ambition of all four nations of the UK to do just that.

“While our window of opportunity is small, we know that real change can happen when governments, groups and individuals work together to protect our climate and natural world.”

Paul Donnelly, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), said: “Achieving a nature positive future and restoring our natural capital is essential for our health, well-being and prosperity.

“We all have a role to play in safeguarding, restoring, and reconnecting with nature.”

And the Joint Nature Conservation Committee chairman, Professor Colin Galbraith, said the report showed how everyone can help achieve a nature positive world.

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