Policy Briefing: Nature-Based Solutions for Green Recovery

Nature-based solutions could mitigate global climate change by 30% a year – the figure needed to deliver the 1.5 target by 2050 (equivalent to 15 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide). Sadly, nature-based solutions currently receive only 2.5% of climate change funding worldwide.

Birds eye view of where costal cliffs meet the sea.
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Our policies to protect and restore nature

The UK must show global leadership on nature-based solutions and climate-friendly land management following on from its Presidency of UNFCCC COP26, particularly considering the conference shone a spotlight on the role of nature in tackling the climate crisis. This must include urgently introducing a range of ambitious policies to deliver: 

  • Additional £5.62 billion a year funding for biodiversity and nature-based solutions

  • Properly funded agri-environment schemes that enshrine the ‘Public Money for Public Goods’ approach. This should include support for farmers and landowners to utilise nature-based solutions to reduce their emissions, restore nature and utilise the benefits it provides.

  • The ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan 

  • Greater momentum to achieve the targets set out in the Post-2020 Framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity 

  • A significant uplift in international climate finance for nature-based solutions 

  • A reduction of the UK’s global environmental footprint by enshrining strict environmental and human rights safeguards. 

The RSPB recently undertook research to map the natural landscapes of peatlands, freshwater and coastal wetlands, semi-natural woodlands, and permanent grasslands. We found they contain two gigatons of carbon – the equivalent to four years of the UK’s annual emissions. 

These key habitats need to be protected and restored in conjunction with a transition to sustainable agricultural practices, as well as wider legislation that will help us to meet the Environment Act targets and create a Nature Recovery Network. If we don’t, they will continue to release emissions and exacerbate climate change. 

Urgent action needed

Peatland covers 12% of the UK’s total land and contains more carbon than the forests of UK, France and Germany combined. The Government must: 

  • A complete ban of burning on blanket bogs, including grouse moors, rather than the current partial measures that have proved ineffective 

  • Ensure legislation comes into force to ban the use of peat in horticulture by 2026, and take action to encourage the horticulture industry to expedite the transition 

  • Increase funding for peatland re-wetting and restoration. 

The UK has lost more than half its native woodland and is now one of the least forested countries in Europe. The Government must: 

  • Prioritise the conservation, enhancement and restoration of ancient and semi-natural woodland in the UK 

  • Support new woodland creation in appropriate locations, at the right scale and supporting appropriate native species 

  • Develop robust plans to sustainably deliver tree planting targets 

There’s an average of 40 species per square metre of meadows and grasslands. However, 97% of our meadows and grassland has been lost since World War 2. Seventy-five percent of the remaining meadows are just tiny fragments of less than two hectares, which limits their biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Government policies must: 

  • Protect the tiny amount of meadow remaining 

  • Revert to permanent, natural grasslands, including wet or chalk grasslands as part of a varied farming landscape. 

Coastal wetlands and saltmarsh habitats are not only vital for protection from flooding, they are estimated to provide £48 billion in ecosystem services per year. They can sequester up to four times more carbon than tropical rainforest. The Government must: 

  • Use nature-based solutions to restore habitat and reduce flood and coastal erosion risk, such as natural flood management and managed realignment 

  • Undergo a widespread seagrass restoration programme of our underwater meadows. 

Beyond our coastal habitats, the ocean can often be overlooked when discussing planetary health, climate change and its effects. Yet it plays a critical role, having absorbed 93% of the extra energy from the enhanced greenhouse effect thus far. Over 90% of the UK’s known blue carbon stores lay beyond the coastal vegetated habitats, in the seabed sediments. To safeguard these stores and the process allowing our seas to capture and lock away carbon, Governments must: 

  • Protect blue carbon hotspots from harmful developments and activities 

  • Actively restore blue carbon habitats wherever possible 

  • Embed blue carbon habitats in the UK greenhouse Gas Inventory 

  • Support research, data collection and analysis of the current blue carbon habitat extents, contribution and condition.

While restoring specific habitats is important, 70% of the UK is farmed. Orchards and woodland  incorporated into farms provide new sources of income, additional jobs, sustainable food, biodiversity gains, carbon sequestration, protecting against soil erosion and flooding, and physical and mental health benefits for local communities. The Government must: 

  • Provide more financial support and advice through the Environmental Land Management schemes to enable farmers to take up more nature-friendly farming 

  • Introduce ambitious baseline regulation for farming and ensure protections for soils and hedgerows are not lost when cross compliance ends. 

Download Policy Briefing (PDF)

Unleash nature’s potential: Nature restoration could generate £6.4 billion a year in benefits to UK

This report shows how nature is crucial to our efforts to revive our world by highlighting examples from across the UK, in just five case studies the report shows how our natural wonders are already delivering us an incredible return on investment. 

Download the report (PDF)


Joe Llanos 

Policy Officer – Nature-based Solutions 


Last Updated: Wednesday 7th September 2023

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