The UK government is being urged to support local communities to buy land to plant trees to help tackle climate change and halt and reverse nature decline.
A new report by environment think tank Green Alliance involving communities in nature restoration projects could be crucial to averting a rural backlash over the land use changes required to address climate change.
As well as supporting farmers and land managers to restore nature and cut emissions through the Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs), the government has a target to attract £1 billion a year of private investment to support nature’s recovery in England by 2030.
Commercial and government investment in tree planting and peatland restoration projects have the potential to help create new jobs for local people, expand access to green spaces, improve air quality and reduce flood risks. However, the report also warns that unless concerns among local people are addressed, opposition to new nature projects risk failure and a lack of future investment.
The report emphasises the need for commercial and government projects to engage local communities to avoid the sense of being left out of decisions, being priced out and not benefiting from the land use changes. This would also allow projects to benefit from local knowledge and new sources of investment.
The report also calls for the government to provide the funding and policy needed to support more community-led tree planting projects. Around a third of England’s tree planting target of 7,500 hectares per year could be met with just 210 12 hectare community-led projects per year, according to the report.
Small scale projects are already underway, such as Avon Needs Trees, a charity in the South West of England, which has two community woodlands of five and 14 hectares each, and Long Lands Common near Harrogate in Yorkshire, a 12 hectare project.
Jim Elliott, Senior policy adviser at Green Alliance said:
“People are concerned about climate change and nature’s decline and are looking for ways to help. A small amount of government funding to help communities come together and take action locally could awaken a sleeping army of volunteers to help restore our natural environment and cut emissions.”
Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank, focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. With a track record of 40 years, Green Alliance has worked with the most influential leaders from the NGO, business, academic and political communities. Our work generates new thinking and dialogue, and has increased political action and support for environmental solutions in the UK. www.green-alliance.org.uk