Investing in nature-based solutions can help rebuild a stronger and greener economy

Analysis by Cambridge Econometrics published in a report today by the RSPB shows that investing in nature-based solutions (NBS) can help rebuild a stronger and greener economy. The study presented today at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Climate, shows that restoring natural habitats can contribute towards the UK achieving nature and climate goals, such as net zero by 2050 and the 25 Year Environment Plan, whilst also creating jobs and delivering vital ecosystem services for people and businesses.

NBS are nature-based processes which have the potential to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it for a long time, providing a ‘natural’ way to mitigate climate change. Forests, mangroves, swamps, peat bogs, salt marshes and seagrass beds are all examples of nature-based solutions which have the ability to sequester carbon.

Cambridge Econometrics conducted a cost benefit analysis (CBA) of three habitats of interest in the UK, namely peatlands, salt marshes and woodlands.

Key findings:

  • Investing in the restoration of these three natural habitats can help the UK to meet its commitment to achieving a net zero emissions economy in 2050, helping to meet the goals of the 25 Year Environment Plan, and achieving the UK’s biodiversity goals that form part of the Aichi Targets.
  • Habitat restoration projects are good ‘value for money’. For every £1 spent investing in the restoration of peatlands, salt marshes and woodland, up to £4.62, £1.31 and £2.79 may be generated in environmental, economic and societal benefits, respectively.
  • NBS can assist in post-Covid economic recovery, delivering social and economic benefits such as recreational and tourism opportunities as well as employment and economic activity, through restoration and ongoing operations and maintenance activities.
  • A restoration project itself is estimated to generate between £156,000 and £4.3 million in additional gross value added (GVA) per 100 hectares while ongoing maintenance of the habitat may generate up to £321,000 per 100 hectares in GVA, over the lifetime of the habitat.

Jennifer Dicks, Project Manager at Cambridge Econometrics comments on the study:

Our analysis provides supporting evidence that investing in NBS, in this case the restoration of UK woodlands, peatlands and salt marshes, not only provides a strong contribution to achieving net zero targets by 2050, but also generates valuable economic opportunities and many wider social benefits.

Investing in NBS could also be considered part of a long-term green stimulus package. Whilst the Government announced a 10-point plan in November 2020 and included in its 2020 Budget announcement a £640 million Nature for Climate fund to plant more than 40 million trees and restore 35,000 hectares of peatlands in England, no further funding was announced in the 2021 Budget earlier this month. More could be done to fully optimise the benefits of nature-based climate solutions in peatlands, salt marshes and woodlands.

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