Proposals put forward to rewild a quarter of UK

21st May 2019

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Tanya Ratcliffe

Rewilding a quarter of the UK's land could offset more than a tenth of the country's CO2 emissions and cost a third less than the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

That is according to a report published today by Rewilding Britain, which calls for a “post-Brexit transformation“ of farming subsidies to help make the UK carbon neutral by 2050.

Billions would be spent incentivising farmers and landowners to enhance, restore and protect nature, delivering on the government's “public payments for public goods“ principle.

This rewilding would regenerate six million hectares of woodland, peatland and species-rich grasslands, which could sequester around 47 million tonnes of CO2 every year.

“Land use change with nature at its heart can play a major role in our efforts to meet our targets and address climate breakdown,“ Rewilding Britain chief executive, Rebecca Wrigley, said.

“We want the government to use the increasing sense of urgency as an opportunity to radically review how land is managed in the UK.“

The proposals would cost around £1.9bn a year to implement, compared with the estimated £3bn spent on the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, according to the report.

Farmers and landholders would be paid £292 per hectare per year (ha/yr) to enhance and restore peat bogs and heath, and £512 ha/yr to establish new native woodlands.

They would also be paid £144 ha/yr for enhancing species-rich hay meadows and grasslands, £322 ha/yr for protecting saltmarsh, £204 for ponds and lakes, and £161 for offshore ecosystems.

It is estimated that this could create two million hectares of new woodland, two million hectares of species-rich meadows, and ensure full protection of two million hectares of peat bogs and heaths.

Over 80,000 people have signed a supporting petition calling on the government for a huge financial and political commitment, with most support coming from people in rural areas.

“We are calling for more public debate around how our countryside is managed in the future,“ Wrigley continued.

“We need to listen to people directly affected and work constructively to avoid the kind of polarisation we've seen triggered by Brexit. We must come together to address the threat to us all.“

Image credit: iStock


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