Charities call for investment boost as Defra reveals its Green Recovery Fund is hugely oversubscribed
More than 20 of the UK's biggest environmental charities are calling for additional funding for nature in Covid-19 stimulus planning, after Environment Minister Rebecca Pow revealed that the Green Recovery Fund is almost seven times oversubscribed.
Pow outlined how the Fund had been progressing earlier this week, following a request from Labour MP Ruth Jones. She confirmed that expressions of interest in the £40m fund totalled more than £270.6m. Applications totalling more than £169m have been completed to date.
Members of the Wildlife and Countryside Link have today (5 November) penned an open letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak arguing that the £40m figure should be boosted to at least £1bn. Private sector support could be used to reach this figure, along with money from Government coffers.
“Increasing the sum available through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund in the forthcoming Spending Review with new funds to cover the shortfall would see green projects underway in the next financial year the length and breadth of the country, from inner cities to our shores,” the letter states.
“We urge you to invest now in a greener future for our economy. There is clear economic evidence that green investments represent excellent value for money and will create a more resilient and prosperous economy for the future.”
Wildlife and Countryside Link has, separately, been urging Sunak to allocate £315m of initial investment to 330 nature protection and restoration projects which were either underway pre-pandemic and paused during the lockdown, or whose start dates were postponed by the coronavirus, where work could begin right away.
The new call to action comes as Natural England launches its Nature Recovery Network Delivery project – a collaborative drive to restore three-quarters of the UK’s protected land and freshwater habitats and to create or restore 500,000 hectares of habitat outside of protected sites. Some 26% of land in England is already covered by National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Several of the letter’s’ signatories are taking part in the project, including the National Trust. Other signatories include RSPB, the Woodland Trust, Surfers Against Sewage and ClientEarth.
It’s only natural
The Treasury and No 10 have received a string of open letters demanding a “green” Covid-19 recovery package and have confirmed fresh funding for many portions of the green economy in recent months, including retrofitting, active transport and electric vehicles.
Nature, however, has not formed such a prominent part of the discussion to date. The £40m package is the only proportion of the Covid-19 stimulus specifically allocated in a competitive way for nature restoration. Environmental charities have collectively been promised a £750m bail-out package.
The return of the Environment Bill to Parliament this week might prompt Sunak to announce fresh nature-related funding at his Spending Review later this month.