As part of Climate Action Newcastle’s Nature Conservation blog series, Annie Lloyd from the countryside charity explains how she thinks we should “hedge” our bets with regards to government restoration action plans.
Back in May, the government announced its new action plans for peat and trees. But CPRE have spotted a hedgerow-shaped hole that leaves opportunities untapped. We’ve read the plans and welcome some promising steps – but point to some gaps.
CPRE have long recognised the value of our hedgerows, peatlands and woodlands. We’re not only passionate about their role as part of our much-loved landscapes – views of dark peat bogs, clusters of ancient trees and hedgerows threading across the tapestry of our countryside together are all iconic sights – but are alive to their value in locking up carbon.
We need these crucial parts of our landscape to give us any hope of tackling climate change. Many of us think of trees as the best around for capturing the carbon dioxide that causes the climate emergency, but that overlooks UK peatlands, for example, which are estimated to be storing 3 billion tonnes of carbon. That’s more than all the forests in the UK, France and Germany combined.
So it’s no surprise that we’re looking enthusiastically to the new government action plans for commitments to look after these crucial elements of our countryside. Our assessment of the plans? Plenty to welcome – but with a hedgerow hiccup.
We’re concerned that the value of hedgerows in capturing carbon and indeed, providing other benefits such as habitats and corridors for wildlife, is neglected here. A 2019 report from the Committee on Climate Change urged for greater investment in creating new hedgerows to help address the climate emergency, and we welcomed their recommendation for a 40% extension of the current hedge network.
That’s why we’re disappointed not to see more being said about these climate-saving superheroes in these action plans. 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% by 2050.
Branch Co-Ordinator for CPRE Northumberland
Homepage - CPRE Northumberland (cprelocalgroups.org.uk)