Sarah: So our next speaker is Tony Juniper from Natural England.
Tony Juniper: I'll take that one, actually. Thank you.#
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. It's a great pleasure to be here and to be able to share a few thoughts into this very important process. I wanted to say something this afternoon about the parallel crisis that's unfolding in relation to environmental change on which is sometimes obscured by the prominence of the climate change issue. And this relates to the degradation of the natural world, the damage to natural systems, degradation of the natural environment and mass extinction of animals and plants that's now taking place on our earth at a speed not seen for literally tens of millions of years. It's being driven forward by deforestation, by industrial farming, by the effects of pollution and also, increasingly, the impacts of climate change. Sometimes people refer to this as the loss of biodiversity. I prefer to call it the tearing apart of the web of life, and bear in mind that all of our civilisations in economies are suspended in that web of life.#
So this is very far from a marginal question. The fact is, however, that it is not a different subject to climate change, it is fundamentally connected. And it's connected in the impacts that we see from climate change on the natural world. Increasingly across the wild. You will have seen headlines regarding the bleaching of the barrier reef caused by high sea temperatures, and also the acidification of the atmosphere caused by carbon emissions. You will have seen news reports about the plight of Arctic and Antarctic wildlife as the polar regions warm up, and you will have seen headlines regarding the loss of insects, in part, probably linked to climate change and alongside other, like wildlife species with seasonal breeding patterns being disrupted through changes in the climate. Not only are there impacts on the natural world arising from climate change, but the damage we're causing to the natural world is leading to massive emissions as well. Again, in the last year, you will have seen headlines relating to the massive forest fires burning in the Amazon in the United States, in Russia and most recently across Australia, releasing many hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon into the air. The level of emissions coming from deforestation is hard to measure compared with coal being put into a power station but is estimated to be in the order of global transport. All the planes, trucks, cars, ships put together are roughly equivalent to what we're releasing from deforestation globally. And it's not only deforestation, which is one of those subjects which does get the headlines, it's also related to soil degradation.#
There's more carbon locked in the worlds soils than all the forests and the atmosphere put together. And as a result of soil damage, caused by industrial farming principally, those locked up carbon sources are going into the air. This is down to the degradation of the so-called organic matter. Soils are comprised of minerals and also have declaimed plant remains. The more we deplete the decaying plant remains, the more carbon there is in the air. This is a particularly pertinent issue when it comes to peatland soils. Peat is near pure organic matter. When we degrade peat by burning by overgrazing, by drainage or by ploughing, the carbon goes into the air. So the climate and wildlife crises are fundamentally linked in relation to both impacts on the natural world and sources of emissions. The fact is that degradation of the natural environment is also causing us to become more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Soil damage Increases flood risk. The degradation of peatlands causes water to flow off of the hills and into the cities.#
Look at what's been happening in this country during recent years, where we can increasingly draw connections between the flooding of people's homes and businesses and the degradation of nature. Looking at all of these different dimensions, many people now are thinking about nature-based solutions. This is a new phrase entering the climate change space and it's exactly the right place where we need to be putting some effort and some thinking because if we recover the natural world, we can catch carbon, we can help avoid the mass extinction, and we can make ourselves less vulnerable to climate change impacts. For example, reforestation, the recovery of peatlands, a very big issue across the British Isles, and also the recovery of coastal ecosystems like salt marshes and mangroves which protect people from sea-born extreme weather, and this will become even more important as we see the effects of sea-level rise.#
So the message, I think, at one level, ladies and gentlemen, that the very high level, is very simple. At the same time as we go low carbon, we need to be going high nature. How can we do that? We can plant more trees. I'm inclined to say let's restore forests because there's a big difference between planting millions of Christmas trees on the uplands, compared with restoring our native broadly woodlands, rich in insects, plants and native birds. If we go down that route, will get multiple benefits for nature, for people and for the environment,and indeed for the climate. One of the most exciting things that I see in discussion in this country at the moment in relation to all of this is the idea of a nature recovery network. This would be about the restoration of degraded and disappeared habitats across the country to help us catch carbon, restore wildlife and help us adapt to the effects of climate change. Thank you.
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