RSPB England Communications Manager Rupert Masefield talks about green growth in England ...
Nature has catapulted into the forefront of public consciousness in the last couple of years, with issues such as plastic pollution and the climate crisis grabbing headlines and making the environment a key election issue for the first time I can remember (and I’m a millennial – just about).
The economy and development haven’t gone away as important issues – but there is something different about how these two ever-present priorities are being talked about today compared with just a few short years ago, and the big question people are asking is “How we can build a green economy?”
The urgency of the need to reverse the damage we’ve done (and in many places continue to do) to the environment and nature necessitates a radical rethink of the relationship between the environment and the economy. Fortunately, this is already happening, and the concept of the Green Economy is helping to bring the business and conservation worlds together.
The value of nature to people and the economy, in terms of the products and services it provides as well as its inherent and cultural value, is not only beginning to be understood and appreciated – it is being factored into the way growth and development is being planned.
This is a mini-revolution in the way business sees the environment, and it’s being accompanied by a similar change in the way the conservation sector engages with businesses and the opportunities for nature to benefit, and benefit from, the economy. Our work on Natural Capital is helping us demonstrate the economic benefits of investing in nature, and business leaders around the country are listening:
Sherwood Forest and the Midlands Engine
The legend of Robin Hood has established Sherwood Forest in imaginations of generations of people – of all ages – not just in the Midlands, but around the world. As well as being culturally iconic, Sherwood is part of a landscape of great economic, social and environmental value. Together with the National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and Woodland Trust we’re championing this value to the Midlands Engine (the Midlands’ answer to the Northern Powerhouse). By investing in landscape-scale restoration here, the Midlands Engine can protect soils, replenish the aquifer, manage water and flooding, and increase tourism – to name just a few of the dividends.
Image: Robin Hood statue in the woods at Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve Credit Line: Stephen Morgan (rspb-images.com)
Habitat banking for cirl buntings
In south west Britain, cirl buntings are benefiting from “habitat banking” that is creating habitat in advance of any potential future losses to development. This novel approach will see the up-front costs of habitat creation today repaid by developers in the future, thanks to a ground-breaking agreement with Teignbridge District Council.
Image: Cirl bunting, Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
Net gain and natural capital in the Oxford to Cambridge Arc
And in the Oxford to Cambridge Arc, business leaders are enthusing about the the opportunity for economic growth to help double the area of land managed for nature through investment in Natural Capital and Green Infrastructure.
Local Industrial Strategies have adopted ambitions for environmental net gain and investing in natural capital, and Local Enterprise Partnerships are putting green growth at the top of their agendas, inviting the RSPB to speak to their AGMs about nature – something that would have been unheard of just a few years ago.
While all this is just a beginning and the road to a truly green economy might be a long one, the journey starts here.
Image: Michael Copleston, RSPB England Head of Land, talking about green growth at the South-East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership AGM this month.
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