Advertisement
Environment

Government plans to use nature to combat climate change are ‘at severe risk of failure’

Government plans to use nature-based solutions like tree-planting to combat climate change are at risk of “severe failure”, a new report has warned.

The government’s plans for using “nature-based solutions” to combat climate change are at risk of “severe failure”, a new report has warned.

The study, published on Wednesday by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee (STC), has warned of a “clear and present danger” that government targets on tree-planting, peat bog restoration and biodiversity restoration could fail – jeopardising the UK’s overall 2050 net zero target.

The term nature-based solutions refers to methods of working with nature to improve the environment or mitigate the impacts of climate change. 

The STC said a lack of policy coordination, skills gaps and uncertainty around the science of carbon sequestration were largely to blame. 

Committee chair Lord Patel said that while the government’s plans for such solutions are “ambitious and have much potential”, they are currently “at severe risk of failure”.

This could include improving soil health, generating new habitats for animals or planting forests to store carbon. 

Advertisement
Advertisement

The government has pledged to meet a target of net zero emissions by 2050, as well as committing 30 per cent of land to nature restoration in a bid to boost the UK’s poor record on biodiversity. 

Meeting both of these targets will require what the STC refers to as a “radical” shake-up of land management in order to implement the nature-based solutions. Currently, however, the government has no overarching strategy for land use. 

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work. With each subscription we invest every penny back into supporting the network of sellers across the UK. A subscription also means you'll never miss the weekly editions of an award-winning publication, with each issue featuring the leading voices on life, culture, politics and social activism.

The report also expressed concerns around a lack of training and information for farmers expected to move to more sustainable farming practices, as well as continued uncertainty over how they will be paid for doing so. 

The government has already announced several different schemes designed to pay farmers for “environmental goods” such as re-wetting peat bogs or planting trees, but, commenting on the pilot Sustainable Farming Incentive scheme, Richard Bramley of the National Farmers Union (NFU) said: “I am one of the farmers in question whom these policies are directed at … and do not have a clue how this is going to take shape”. 

The Big Issue Shop

Eco-friendly gift hampers that make a positive impact

The Big Issue has collaborated with Social Stories Club to create limited edition gift hampers. Packed full of treats made by social ventures, this hamper would make the perfect gift for the festive season.

Farmers have reportedly been reluctant to begin planting trees due to uncertainties over how or when they’ll be paid during the transition from the old EU farming policy (known as the common agricultural policy) to new post-Brexit agricultural policy. 

Martin Lines, chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network echoed concerns in the STC report that the government’s approach is not joined-up enough to tackle the climate emergency wholesale. 

“My concern is the focus on individual schemes and grants rather than a whole farm landscape approach. 

“There is a real possibility that planting the wrong trees or [the wrong] action will take place in some places. We need to be adding more nature-based solutions to our landscape to help tackle our climate and biodiversity crisis, while at the same time helping to improve the outputs from our farmed landscape,” he told The Big Issue.

Article continues below

Other problems outlined in the STC report include a lack of funding for bodies like the Environment Agency and Natural England as well as a general lack of ecological skills and knowledge in the workforce and within local authorities. 

Peers also expressed concern around the lack of research into carbon sequestration, meaning that the benefits of nature-based schemes could be calculated incorrectly. 

The STC made a series of recommendations in its report, including an instruction to devise a land management plan for the UK.

The committee warned that a failure to deliver on nature-based solutions risks “the livelihoods of farmers, damaging the agricultural sector, undermining the net zero agenda, and risks undermining the UK’s biodiversity-recovery.

Advertisement

Support your local vendor

Want to buy a copy of the magazine? We have over 1,200 Big Issue vendors in the UK. Each vendor buys a copy of the mag for £1.50 and sells it for £3, keeping the difference. Visit our interactive map to find your nearest vendor and support them today!

Recommended for you

Read All
The government has rejected calls to give the public more access to the English countryside
Right to roam

The government has rejected calls to give the public more access to the English countryside

New records were set in 2021 for rising sea levels, greenhouse gas and ocean heat
Climate crisis

New records were set in 2021 for rising sea levels, greenhouse gas and ocean heat

Exclusive: The UK's rarest and most threatened wildlife sites are not being protected properly
Nature conservation

Exclusive: The UK's rarest and most threatened wildlife sites are not being protected properly

Why you should count your plastic waste to help fight pollution
Plastic pollution

Why you should count your plastic waste to help fight pollution

Most Popular

Read All
The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who
1.

The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who

Boris Johnson set to scrap plan to let workers keep tips despite admitting minimum wage isn’t enough to live on
2.

Boris Johnson set to scrap plan to let workers keep tips despite admitting minimum wage isn’t enough to live on

Life On Mars sequel has ‘a lot of travelling in time and car chases’, John Simm reveals
3.

Life On Mars sequel has ‘a lot of travelling in time and car chases’, John Simm reveals

The controversial new laws rushed through by the government this week
4.

The controversial new laws rushed through by the government this week

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.