The Campaign to Protect Rural England is urging the government to put the countryside at the forefront of climate action so that rural communities do not bear the brunt of the climate crisis.
In a new report, Greener, better, faster: Countryside solutions to the climate emergency and for a green recovery, they outline how the countryside can be at the centre of the transformation to a net-zero society. The report recommends:
- Introduce an action plan for land use to deliver net zero by 2045 with binding interim targets and localised carbon reduction plans. This should harmonise funding, taxation and regulation to rapidly re-wet and restore peatland, expand woodland and agroforestry, drive uptake of agroecological practices to boost soil health and drive down emissions from inefficient use of synthetic nutrients.
- Implement an ambitious national food strategy to alter demand to support improved health and sustainable low carbon land use. New policy tools are needed to rapidly drive down food waste from farm to fork and to improve diets.
- Urgently resource and commission a comprehensive national evidence base of land capability including properties of soils, land and other natural assets to assess potential for delivery of essential ecosystem services in the context of changing climate.
Invest in the restoration and planting of England’s hedgerows, to achieve at least a 40% increase in their length by 2050
Radically tighten up building regulations to ensure that new buildings meet zero carbon standards. Existing buildings should also meet zero carbon standards in terms of heat and space
Invest in a new generation of renewables, including solar, wind and hydro that are strategically planned at the national, sub-regional and local levels. This should be done in a way that benefits the rural economy, forming a cornerstone of local enterprise and jobs; is supported by or owned by local communities; brings net benefits to wildlife; and minimises impacts on landscape, tranquillity and cultural heritage
Divert £27bn planned road spend to a ring-fenced rural transport fund to support low carbon public transport services for rural communities that need to be better connected.
‘Greener, better, faster’ was launched at a virtual panel discussion. At it, Luke Pollard MP, shadow secretery of state for DEFRA told 240 online attendees that the vast majority of the public do not support going back to business as usual. He urged the Government to match warm words with action and to urgently bring back the long-delayed Environemnt Bill.
Minister for the Environment Rebecca Pow MP acknowledged the link between zoonotic diseases like coronaviruses and our interaction with our environment, saying protecting nature and our countryside is more important than ever.
Baroness Bennett, ex-leader of the Green Party, emphasised the importance of farming in a countryside strategy, and the need to consider nature and biodiversity loss at the same time as climate change.
Freddie Northcott, Youth Climate Campaigner, championed organic farming, calling for great quality, ecologically-produced food to be accessible to all.
Sustain's report A Green and Pressured Land illustrates the competing demands on our land, from golf courses to animal feed. It offers some solutions for a land use plan which would cut greenhouse gases and feed citizens sustainably, as recommended in this report.
Climate Change and Nature
Climate Change and Nature: Sustain has taken a keen interest in the rapidly accumulating evidence about the effect of food and farming on climate change and nature, as scientific evidence emerges that our food system is a very significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.
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