Countryside holds key to tackling the climate emergency

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By cpreimogen
8th July 2020

On the cusp of the government’s ‘mini-budget’ today, 8 July, CPRE is calling for a radical rethink of the role of the countryside in tackling the climate emergency

We believe that the Chancellor has an historic opportunity to tackle the climate emergency in the ‘mini budget’. We are calling for the countryside to be at the forefront of climate action so that rural communities do not bear the brunt of the climate emergency in our new report: ‘Greener, better, faster: countryside solutions to the climate emergency and for a green recovery’. The report sets out how the countryside can be at the centre of the transformation to a net-zero society, to make sure we tackle the climate emergency in a way that benefits people living and working in rural communities.

‘Greener, better, faster’ was launched at a virtual panel discussion with Rebecca Pow MP, Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Luke Pollard MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, Former Leader of the Green Party; and Freddie Northcott, youth climate activist in attendance.

‘Greener, better, faster’ sets out how the government can best achieve this with five key recommendations:

  • Farming:  Introduce an action plan for the land use sector to rapidly re-wet and restore peatland, expand woodland and agroforestry, drive uptake of agroecological practices to boost soil health and drive down emissions from inefficient use of synthetic nutrients;
  • Hedgerows: Invest in the restoration and planting of England’s hedgerows, to achieve at least a 40% increase in their length by 2050;
  • Planning and building: Radically tighten up building regulations to ensure that new buildings meet zero carbon standards. Existing buildings should also meet zero carbon standards in terms of heat and space;
  • Energy: Invest in a new generation of renewables, including solar, wind and hydro that are strategically planned at the national, sub-regional and local levels. This should be done in a way that benefits the rural economy, forming a cornerstone of local enterprise and jobs; is supported by or owned by local communities; brings net benefits to wildlife; and minimises impacts on landscape, tranquillity and cultural heritage and;
  • Transport: Divert £27 billion planned road spend to a ring-fenced rural transport fund to support low carbon public transport services for rural communities that need to be better connected.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said:

Whatever breathing space we had to tackle the climate emergency has already been used up. But some of the best ways to reduce our emissions also make our countryside more resilient, so let’s harness the awesome power of our countryside and rural communities to tackle the climate emergency head-on. That means properly investing in rural public transport, delivering renewables sensitively and investing in nature-based solutions like peatland restoration and hedgerows.

‘The PM’s ‘build, build,build’ strategy fell far short of this – the government cannot continue to ignore public support for building back better, including for enhancing and protecting countryside and green spaces. That’s why we’re calling on the Chancellor to go further to ensure that, in recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, we get on a path to net-zero. Let’s harness the power of the countryside instead of locking in larger carbon emissions. Only then will we be going greener, better, faster.’

The full text of ‘Greener, better, faster’ can be found here:

Chris Keene