We are in the run up to COP26 at which the UK government will play host to the most critical meeting of its kind to date. All eyes are and will be on the UK as we seek to tackle the climate crisis and recover from the coronavirus pandemic. There is, however, another crisis that demands our attention – staggering and rapid biodiversity loss.
We are currently living in the sixth and worst mass extinction event the world has ever seen: species are being lost at between one hundred to one thousand times faster than the background rate before human interference began.
In the UK alone, 15% of species are at risk of vanishing forever. The UK is one of the most ecologically depleted nations on earth yet somewhere species such as bears and wolves once roamed wild. However, the populations of its most critical species have plummeted by 60% since 1970.
Agricultural intensification, ever expanding urban development and an increasingly polluted environment have all taken their toll on our biodiversity. Economic development has depleted our landscapes leaving them largely devoid of birdsong and the hum of insects.
This is why the UK needs to rewild
In cities like Nottingham and national parks such as the Cairngorms, the potential we have to restore our species and landscapes is great. What is more, when the World Economic Forum estimates that nature is responsible for half of global GDP ($44 trillion USD) and that shifting to a nature-positive economy in key sectors could create 395 million jobs by 2030, it is clear that restoring nature is not just altruistic – it makes sound economic sense too.
The UK has set the target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and earlier this year pledged to cut emissions 78% by 2035. As we work to urgently tackle the climate crisis, rapid decarbonisation is of course vital, but harnessing natural assets is the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle.