Connecting greenspace across the country and bringing about more transparent discussions about UK land ownership could improve biodiversity and significantly offset emissions, a new report from Common Wealth argues.
Additionally, the plan outlines how new jobs could be created through the large-scale restoration of peatland, shifting ownership of grouse-hunting land, and greening decommissioned industrial areas. Farmers working on low-grade subsidised land would be incentivised to work on rewilding and maintaining that land.
Naomi Klein, global climate activist said: “This is exactly the kind of deep policy work we need if we are going to turn the Green New Deal from a slogan into a life-saving reality in the UK and around the world.”
The report is part of Common Wealth's Road Map to a Green New Deal series, which calls for a transformation of the economy, outlining an increase in government investment to rapidly decarbonise the economy and create millions of well-paid jobs, a 100 percent renewable energy system, a public green transport network, and decent, affordable, zero-carbon housing for all.
The series includes reports by activist groups such as Greenpeace and Green New Deal for Europe, as well as think tanks like IPPR, NEF, and international policy thinkers.
Professor Simon Lewis, author of the report, said: "What is unique about this UK Restoration Plan is by focusing on connection, it combines helping wildlife and helping people adapt to climate change. This Green New Deal for Nature is about modest investments resulting in a big increases in the quality of all our lives."
The report emphasises the benefit to rural communities, as well as giving urban, working-class communities more access to nature. It comes in the wake of recent calls from the National Audit Office that the government is not prepared for a new system of agricultural subsidies after the UK leaves the EU, leaving farmers exposed to risk.
Others have reported that UK farmers are scrambling to export surplus produce in the lead up to Brexit. Meanwhile, rewilding projects have taken off in recent years, with recent news that rewilding has caused white storks to spread across England for the first time in 600 years.
Practical and thoughtful
Lily Cole, actor and environmentalist said: “While technologists design fancy carbon-capture machines, nature offers us the simplest, most cost-effective and profound way to solve our environmental crisis.
"Re-thinking land use in the UK (and globally), offers us the opportunity to capture huge quantities of carbon, enhance biodiversity, and also improve our own human relationship to the land.
"There can be no doubt that re-wilding will be critical in the drive towards increased environmental sustainability: the question is how to do it.
This report offers practical and thoughtful ideas on how re-wilding might happen in the UK, for example by diverting agricultural subsidies to reward people for providing environmental services instead, or creating land corridors for wildlife between hedgerows.
"I hope the report is the beginning of a positive conversation on how we might turn this crisis into an opportunity."
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion said: "A UK Green New Deal is vital to our future, and to the future of the 1.4 million young people who have joined inspiring school climate strikes across the globe.
The Green New Deal is a pluralistic, justice-focused economic plan for a rapid transition, and I welcome Common Wealth's exciting and vital contribution, drawing on talents and energy from across the climate movement.
"Ten years on from the original UK Green New Deal I was proud to be a part of, a transformation of our economy toward sustainability and justice is more urgent than ever.
We must reject the false dichotomy of economics and climate change mitigation. A UK Green New Deal - powered by social movements and a pluralistic, radical politics - can provide a future with good jobs and clean energy for all. Common Wealth's roadmap is a vital contribution to that debate."
Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release from Common Wealth.