Pandemic recovery investment in nature schemes ‘could create thousands of jobs’

Funding could go to schemes to restore wildflower meadows Credit: Emily Beament/PA

Investing in nature projects could create 25,000 jobs as part of a green recovery from the pandemic, environmental groups have said.

The Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition of green organisations has put together a list of 330 “shovel ready” projects, from restoring meadows and peatlands to planting trees and creating coastal wetlands.

They want the Government to invest in such schemes as part of a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis, to create jobs and improve people’s lives and health, as well as cutting carbon emissions and tackling the nature crisis.

In the short term, investment in these projects could support around 5,000 jobs in the environment sector and a further 5,000 in delivery, for example employing contractors or tree planters, as well as boosting supply chains.

Some of the projects would deliver clear returns, with 23 schemes that would cost £34 million to deliver estimated to produce at least £160 million in benefits including flood protection, carbon storage and improved health.

And if the Government delivers on its ambition in its 25-year environment plan to restore half a million hectares (1.24 million acres) of habitats, it could lead to a further 15,000 jobs in other similar projects, the coalition said.

The 330 projects spanning England would also help meet climate and nature targets, the group argued.

They would create or enhance 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) of habitats such as woodlands, marshes, rivers and hedgerows and throw a lifeline to species from hedgehogs to seahorses.

It would also mean 4.5 million trees are planted, helping to meet UK targets to increase woodlands and store carbon to tackle climate change.

Overall, the projects would store a minimum of 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year initially, which would rise significantly over time, the environmental coalition said.

Richard Benwell, chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “Investing in nature can provide a short-term boost with thousands of jobs, and it can provide long-term, cost-effective protection against costly risks like flooding, soil degradation, and climate change.

“Helping the poorest, most nature-deprived communities first can help improve people’s way of life at the same time as helping wildlife.

“This is the Chancellor’s chance to grow back better by including funding for these projects in July’s budget announcement.”

Projects on the “ready to go” list include partnerships led by charity Plantlife with farmers, communities and local businesses to restore wildflower meadows and pastures.

Rolling out the tried and tested scheme across England would require a scaling up of wildflower seed growing and harvesting, as well as contractors with the right skills to restore meadows, and support high-quality grass-fed livestock production, providing jobs in the rural economy.

Other projects include managing land in the Lake District to store more carbon and cut flooding while also providing a more sustainable livelihood for local farmers, and the “tiny forests” concept to create small, dense urban woods.

The schemes are a mix of well-tested and innovative projects and many could be replicated in different locations to fit local needs, the Wildlife and Countryside Link said.