This week, the UK Government published its flagship Net Zero Strategy, outlining how it intends to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across the UK by 2050. While there are some promising opportunities for our sector, the strategy lacks detailed policies for green infrastructure investment, writes LI Policy and Public Affairs Manager Theo Plowman

Palace of Westminster, London. Image: Eric Lundqvist via Unsplash

The Landscape Institute (LI) welcomes the Net Zero Strategy, which offers vital detail on the UK Government’s plans to meet Net Zero ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

There are some promising opportunities for the landscape sector, and positive general steps towards net zero in transport, green finance, and green jobs.

However, while the strategy outlines a few positive initiatives for nature – most markedly an extra £124 million to the Nature for Climate Fund, which boosts woodland creation and peatland restoration – it lacks detailed policies or investment in nature-based solutions and green infrastructure.

The strategy sets out policies to meet the fourth and fifth Carbon Budgets, the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), and a decarbonised economy by 2050. It is formulated under four key principles:

  1. Prioritise consumer choice.
  2. Ensure the biggest polluters pay the most for the transition through carbon pricing.
  3. Ensure the most vulnerable are protected through government support, such as discounted energy bills and energy-efficiency upgrades.
  4. Work with businesses to deliver cost reductions in low-carbon technology.

Up to £90bn in private investment will support 440,000 jobs in green industries by 2030. The aim is to provide certainty to businesses to support the UK in low-carbon technologies and develop green industries in industrial heartlands.

The document is a much-needed step forward ahead of COP26, where the UK must take leadership in the journey towards net zero. The UK has lacked an overarching strategy for meeting its climate goals for a number of years. There are certainly positives for our sector among the wider policy changes.

Nature for Climate

  • The Net-Zero Strategy commits the UK Government to boost the existing £640m Nature for Climate Fund with an additional £124m, ensuring that at least £750m will be spent by 2025 on peat restoration, woodland creation and management.

Green infrastructure

  • In 2022, the government will launch a new National Framework of Green Infrastructure Standards. This is nothing new, however – the LI has been working with Natural England to review the framework’s progress.

Skills funding

  • The strategy pledges to reform the skills system to equip training providers, employers, and learners with green skills and support the development of UK supply chains.
  • A sustainability and climate change strategy for education and children’s services will include a focus on equipping children and young people with the knowledge and skills they need to contribute to the green economy.

‘Lacking in detail’

Despite these positives, the land use, nature, and agriculture sections of the strategy are lacking detail, and are the weakest in the document.

Agriculture lacks any clear targets, and the government is hedging its bets on afforestation and peatland restoration to offset this output. The government has included a new commitment to restore 280,000 hectares of peat in England by 2050. While this is an improvement on the 35,000 hectares it had previously pledged to restore by 2025, it still falls short of the Committee of Climate Change’s recommendations of near complete restoration.

Overall, the strategy is an important first step in the right direction. It’s clear that the government is targeting high-emission areas such as transport and heat in buildings. But we need frameworks that offer wider policy interventions on expanding green infrastructure, protecting and enhancing landscapes, and reducing embodied carbon.

The LI will continue to work with government to ensure the approach to reaching net-zero is truly sustainable, with action on adaptation as well as mitigation. The UK must undertake its journey to net zero in a way which addresses the climate emergency, delivers for nature, reduces public health inequalities, and improves the quality of life for everyone in Britain. One of the best ways to achieve this is by investing in better, greener places.

Read more: Landscape for 2030 – How landscape practice can respond to the climate crisis

For more information on this document, our work leading up to COP26, and our ongoing policy priorities, please contact policy@landscapeinstitute.org.

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