Rewilding a key pillar in our fight against global heating
Green New Deal for Nature, by Simon Lewis, of University College London and University of Leeds, forms part of Common Wealth’s Green New Deal (GND) series. The report advocates a GND that ‘could turn the UK from one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries into green and vibrant land’.
It begins by painting a picture of nature today: ‘one in four of all species on earth face possible extinction’, while ‘agriculture has entirely replaced the original ecosystems across 40% of the world’s land surface’. It states that restoring these ecosystems is a ‘key pillar’ in the fight against climate breakdown, both as a safe, cost-effective method of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and as a way of restoring biodiversity.
The report argues that a ‘Green New Deal for Nature should restore ecosystems across 25% of the UK within the next decade’ through rewilding and restoration projects. Targeting these projects near urban centres – typically the most income-poor – coupled with ‘legislation for a right to roam in non-agricultural lands’, would give people access to ‘living landscapes as part of their everyday lives’. The rewilding would also connect ecosystems across the UK and enable wildlife to ‘move as the climate changes, helping it adapt to rapid climate change’.
Lewis suggests the plans could be funded by altered agricultural subsidies, carbon taxes and allowing local communities ‘to buy land and manage it sustainably for the long term’. He also points out that ‘food demand will need to change to free land for nature’. The government should help ‘make the best choices for human and planetary health the easiest and cheapest option’, ban the advertising of meat and dairy products, and mandate ‘all schools and hospitals to provide healthy and sustainable meals as standard’. This will ‘substantially reduce the land-area needed to feed the UK, making space for nature in the UK and beyond’.
The report concludes:
‘Restoring and rewilding 25% of the UK will give tens of millions of people access to life-filled lands. It will play a key role in avoiding climate breakdown, help wildlife adapt to rapid environmental change, and give protection to communities from the floods, droughts and storm surges that climate change will bring. Our food system will become more resilient, and more contact with nature means better physical and mental health.’
Read the full report here.
Read an introduction to the project, Road Map to a Green New Deal: From Extraction to Stewardship, written by Common Wealth director and founder Mathew Lawrence.