A House of Lords Committee has found that without policy clarity, urgent investment in research, skills training and the introduction of a new advisory service for farmers and land managers, the government’s ambitious plans for nature-based solutions are at severe risk of failure.
This would put the government’s goal of achieving net zero by 2050 at risk, as well as undermining the agricultural sector, it said.
The Lords Science and Technology Committee has published a report, ‘Nature-based solutions: rhetoric or reality?’, examining the role that nature-based solutions can and should play in reducing the UK’s net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and restoring nature as part of the government’s plan to achieve net zero by 2050.
The Committee found that nature-based solutions are not a substitute for rapid decarbonisation, but they can play a significant role in reaching net zero and restoring UK nature.
As well as restoring habitats and creating new ones, it must be a priority to better manage and preserve existing natural habitats.
The Committee warned that more research is urgently needed to address significant scientific uncertainties about how much carbon is stored in terrestrial and marine habitats, and how much CO2 these habitats can reliably sequester in the future.
Importantly, nature-based solutions are not just about tree planting; they need to be specific to each of a range of habitats.
A skills deficit
The report warns that the UK does not have the requisite skills to deliver nature-based solutions at scale.
The government acknowledges this, but there has been no formal assessment of the skills needed, nor a route to providing training in the timescales required for the government’s plans for an agricultural transition over the next decade.
The skills deficits range from forestry, ecology and peatland restoration to advice for land managers.
The report states that policy uncertainty is hindering the adoption of nature-based solutions. While lessons should be learned as nature-based solutions are rolled out, the lack of detail about the Environmental Land Management schemes (the UK’s post-Brexit agricultural subsidies) jeopardises the roll-out of nature-based solutions and the wider agricultural transition.
Land managers need some certainty if the government’s targets are to be met.
Nature-based solutions in support of net zero emissions will not work without the support of farmers and land managers.
Communication and engagement with those responsible for implementing nature-based solutions has been inadequate so far.