Rural and environment campaigners in Warwickshire react to government drive to improve environment - The Rugby Observer

Rural and environment campaigners in Warwickshire react to government drive to improve environment

Rugby Editorial 20th May, 2021   0

RURAL campaigners in Warwickshire have welcomed a government drive to improve the environment – but a regional environmental group has branded the initiative a ‘rehash’ and ‘too vague’.

The government says its newly-announced Peat and Tree Action Plans will ‘halt the decline of nature’ in England by plating more trees, banning the sale of peat, and setting new targets to return species such as wildcats and beavers to the countryside.

The Warwickshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said it was ‘absolutely right’ that the government had staked out its intention on trees and raised the profile of peatlands.

Chief Executive Crispin Truman said: “The countryside’s toolbox of hedgerows, peatlands, woodlands and other habitats are crucial allies in soaking up carbon emissions to tackle the climate emergency. “Healthy wet peatlands – which have come to be known as the UK’s own threatened and degraded rainforests – have locked up billions of tonnes of carbon for thousands of years and the England Peat Action Plan recognises their value. It is hugely welcome to see the proposed ban on peat-based composts and an ultimate phase-out of burning being considered.

“While plans to restore upland and rewet lowland peatlands sound promising, we need to see them fleshed out in binding targets, with the funding to match the scale of the challenge we face on peatlands.

“Hedgerows also have a vital role to play, but they seem to have been left out. They should be right up there, alongside trees, as nature and climate heroes. That’s why we’re calling on the government to stop beating around the bush and increase hedgerow cover by at least 40 per cent by 2050.”

West Midlands Friends of the Earth said the tree plan was a rehash of current ‘unambitious targets’, adding that the government had already missed its original target on ending sales of peat, and that plans to restore damaged peatlands were ‘too vague’.

Spokesman Chris Crean said: “This plan just rehashes the government’s existing unambitious target to raise England’s woodland cover to 12 per cent by mid-century. This target was first set way before parliament declared a climate emergency, and really needs to be updated.

“The government needs to set a much more ambitious long-term tree cover target that matches the scale of the climate and nature crisis. This means at least doubling tree cover, but not at the cost of other natural habitats like peatland or wildflower meadows, and supporting farmers to grow more trees.”

Friends of the Earth nature campaigner Paul de Zylva added: “A decade ago, ministers pledged to end peat sales by 2020, but they must now hit their new 2024 target date and not let things drift again.

“We may also be closer to an end to the reckless burning of peat moorlands. But plans to restore damaged peatlands are still too vague.

“Restoration is needed at scale now to stop carbon leaking back into the atmosphere – which just undermines the government’s efforts against climate breakdown.”


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