Truro & Falmouth MP, Sarah Newton, has called for greater protections for local natural habitats to support nature-based solutions to tackle climate change, ahead of the Global Climate Strike on Friday September 20.
The science is clear that action must be taken now to prevent global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5C and to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. In response to that the Government was the first in the G20 to adopt a net zero emissions target, aiming to end the UK’s contribution to climate change altogether by 2050. Natural habitats such as forests, meadows, coasts and peatlands can draw down and store huge amounts of carbon, whilst providing a home for wildlife.
Sarah Newton MP has backed calls for these local habitats to be protected and form part of the UK’s Nature Recovery Network which will shortly be introduced through the new Environment Bill. These protections will ensure the habitats continue to support climate action, as well as restoring those that have been degraded. This also links to one of the asks from the School Climate Strikers to ‘protect and restore vital threatened habitats and carbon sinks, and ensure the provision of clean water, clean air and green spaces, securing a safe and healthy environment for all’.
Commenting on this, Sarah said, “the Government has pledged to introduce a highly ambitious Environment Bill, outlining our plans to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. This Bill must have strong, legally-binding targets to restore nature and map out where local natural habitats need protecting. This is an important part of tackling climate change, we cannot hope to solve to this global issue without restoring nature.”
Recent research by the RSPB found that the landscapes in the UK that are both best for nature and that act as carbon sinks, store a total of 2 gigatonnes of carbon – equivalent to 4 years of the UK’s total emissions. Furthermore, 66% of this land lies outside of legally protected areas. If these landscapes continue to degrade, this carbon will be added to the atmosphere – but if the habitats are restored and managed correctly, nature could lock away much more carbon than it is currently.
Martin Harper, Director of Global Conservation at the RSPB, said: “We are in a climate and nature crisis - the two are interconnected and must be tackled in tandem. Nature-based solutions offer the opportunity to not only restore the natural riches of the world but to also slam the brakes on climate change. But we must act urgently to address the way we manage our land and our over reliance on fossil fuels or risk irreversible climate change with disastrous consequences for nature as well as people’s lives.”
Speaking at the G7, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The planet faces two immense threats: climate change and biodiversity loss. These are two sides of the same coin – it is impossible to solve one challenge without fixing the other. We cannot stop climate change without protecting the natural environment and we can’t restore global nature without tackling climate change. That is why I have decided that COP26 – if the UK is fortunate enough to host it next year – will have as a major focus the solutions to climate change that can be found in nature – such as reforestation.”
Last week, it was confirmed that the UK had won its bid to host the international UN climate summit COP26 in Glasgow in 2020. At the conference countries will set out the next stage of their political commitments to tackle climate change following the initial Paris Agreement.
Sarah Newton MP said: “It’s absolutely right that we focus on natural solutions to climate change, we have many of these great resources right in our area. We must properly protect and restore them so that they can both soak up carbon and provide a home for wildlife. The UK can step up to become a world leader on nature-based solutions and rehabilitate our wild places so we can leave the environment in better condition for the next generation. I have seen first-hand the excellent work that organisations such as the RSPB and Cornwall Wildlife Trust are doing working with local landowners. This is particularly important as the eyes of the world look to Glasgow in 2020. Now that we have the net zero target, we need the right policies to get us there.”
NOTES TO EDITOR
Find out more about the RSPB’s research and explore an interactive UK-wide map here.
Tackling climate change through land use can be done in ways that are harmful or beneficial for the environment. For instance, if peatlands are left to dry out they can quickly become a huge emitter of carbon. Recent global science reports on climate change (IPCC 2018) and biodiversity (IPBES 2019) highlight how the nature and climate crises are inextricably linked.
Policies supporting the restoration and creation of natural habitats will promote long-term carbon storage in soils and plants and allow the UK to grow its shrinking carbon sinks while helping reverse declines in biodiversity. This can be achieved through delivering an ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan (and the associated Nature Recovery Network), alongside new Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries Bills.
Find out more about the Prime Minister’s announcements at the G7 Summit here.
Find out more about the Global Climate Strike demands here.