Solutions

Restore and rewild a quarter of UK land

Restore and rewild a quarter of UK land

Plan will help the UK reach net zero carbon emissions, restore biodiversity and help us adapt to climate change.

The climate emergency makes new demands on land, including the possibilities of using it to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Responding to the biodiversity crisis requires allocating more space for nature. Yet globally pressures on land to produce food and timber are increasing and despite the evidence that time spent in green spaces is essential to our wellbeing, our connection to nature is weaker than ever.

The UK government should agree to design a UK Restoration and Rewilding Plan – a Green New Deal for nature – to allocate 25% of the UK’s land primarily for wildlife and carbon sequestration, within a decade. Key to this plan is to reestablish woodlands to link existing important remaining habitats together, and connect them to people.

Implementing the UK Restoration and Rewilding Plan would be funded by a combination of altered agricultural subsidies as payments for carbon uptake; carbon taxes from industries that cannot reach net zero emissions within the next three decades; and proposed new legislation including allowing local communities to buy land and manage it for the long term.

Given just 20% of the UK is cropland or very densely urbanised, the opportunities to make space for nature are abundant. More than half of the UK’s land is used for grazing animals. Restoring and rewilding land designated low-grade’ and used for grazing should provide most of the land, as this grazing is typically dependent on public subsidies. Expanding some of the UK’s 120,000 hectares of hedgerows to become linear forests will allow urban and suburban areas to connect with larger areas of restoration. This connection will help wildlife move as the climate changes, helping it adapt to rapid climate change.

A UK Restoration and Rewilding Plan will contribute to the UK reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions, restore our precious biodiversity and help us adapt to climate change. And by connecting people and nature it will improve our physical and mental health. This Green New Deal for nature could turn the UK from one of the world’s most nature-depleted counties into green and vibrant land.