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Green Recovery Insights: Putting nature at the heart of recovery

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Credit: Jon Craig

In the third of our Green Recovery Insights blog series, Ian Barrett, Chief Executive of Avon Wildlife Trust, calls for nature to be at the heart of a green recovery, and highlights what action is needed at all levels. Avon Wildlife Trust is one of the Partnership’s founding supporting members. 

The coronavirus crisis has shown just how closely connected our society and economy are to the natural world. Many people have discovered the joy, comfort and inspiration that access to nature close to home can provide, even in the depths of lockdown.

Jon Hawkins

Less positively, many scientists suspect that COVID-19 – like ebola and other ‘zoonotic’ diseases – has come from increasing human penetration into damaged natural ecosystems – ecosystems that we have stressed beyond their limits through habitat destruction, hunting, pollution and climate change. At this critical turning point in all our lives, we need to recognise the entwined futures of climate, nature and us – and take action to safeguard that future.

Nature needs to be at the heart of a green recovery because it’s essential to our lives, our health and our economy. Nature provides clean air and water, absorbs carbon, builds soils and provides raw materials. 75% of the foods we eat are pollinated by insects.

Investing in the natural world can help to reverse declines in wildlife, tackle climate change, provide more green space for people and create jobs. We have lost 68% of wildlife globally since the 1970s and we in the UK live in one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth. But it’s not too late to turn this around and begin to restore, create and connect wildlife-rich habitats for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Bristol’s Ecological Emergency Strategy published in September sets out four key strategic goals to help us become a wildlife-rich, ecologically resilient city:

  • Space for nature – at least 30% of land in Bristol to be managed for the benefit of wildlife by 2030
  • Pesticides – reduce the use of pesticides in Bristol by at least 50% by 2030
  • Pollution – 100% of Bristol’s waterways to have excellent water quality which supports healthy wildlife by 2030
  • Our wider footprint – people and businesses to reduce consumption of products that undermine the health of wildlife and ecosystems around the world

Achieving these goals needs action at all levels, from the legislation introduced by Government, to how we develop our city, to the choices made by organisations, and the actions we take as individuals. You can read more about the actions you can take for wildlife at https://www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/actions.

WildNet

We need to make these changes alongside action to create more jobs and houses for people in the city, tackle hunger, poverty and exclusion, and move to a zero-carbon, zero-waste economy based on renewable energy and sustainable transport. Avon Wildlife Trust became a founding supporting member of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership and continues to provide that support as only by coming together can we create a sustainable city with a high quality of life for all.

Avon Wildlife trust is developing a pipeline of projects that will help to restore the natural world in our city-region, lock up carbon and provide new jobs as part of the green recovery. “Nature-based solutions” are projects that work with and enhance nature to help address societal challenges. We are reviving peatlands, raising water levels in wetlands, restoring grasslands, creating ponds and developing “mosaic habitats” of trees and grassland – all of which will help nature’s recovery at the same time as absorbing carbon. Organisations and individuals can invest in natural solutions to offset their carbon emissions as they move towards zero carbon and to offset their impact on the natural world.

If we want to achieve a truly green recovery, we need to see habitats restored on a massive scale to restore wildlife and absorb carbon. The Wildlife Trusts want to see at least 30% of land in the UK managed for nature by 2030 and we’ve launched a £30m appeal to help make this happen. This will enable us to buy land for nature reserves and work with landowners to create and restore habitats, bring back lost wildlife and lock up carbon. 30% is the bare minimum that nature needs to start recovering but we are far short of this and need your help to turn things around.

To find out more about these projects, and what you can do as an individual or organisation in support of the wildlife on your doorstep today, please visit https://www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk/support-us/ecoemergency.

About the Author

Ian has been a Director of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership since 2015, initially as England South Director for Sustrans and then as Chief Executive of Avon Wildlife Trust, where he is now.

Avon Wildlife Trust is the major environmental charity dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wildlife in our area. With 30 nature reserves across the West of England, more than 17,000 members, 3,500 volunteers and a dedicated staff team, the Trust is committed to making our local area wilder and making nature part of life, for everyone. Avon Wildlife Trust is one of the Partnership’s founding supporting members.

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