The countryside is key: we respond to a new climate change report urging rapid action

25th June 2020

The Committee on Climate Change has today released its annual progress report on how the country is doing. We respond to the report’s calls for urgency.

Each year, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), created in 2008 as an independent body, reports to the government on progress on action against the climate crisis. In 2020, this report confirms: more needs to be done, and fast.

This year is seen through the prism of the global pandemic, and the report includes a natural emphasis on the economic recovery that will be vital as we emerge from lockdown. But the recommendations to parliament are very clear: this must be a green, resilient recovery – one that moves us faster towards zero emissions and prepares us for climate change.

The countryside will be essential

The recommendations from the CCC – such as restoring peatlands, investing in nature and moving to green energy – are in line with what we at CPRE, the countryside charity, have long been calling for. It’s clear that for the kind of green recovery that the CCC urges, the countryside must play a central role.

Commenting on the annual progress report, our chief executive Crispin Truman said:

‘The government is slowly waking up to the invaluable role the countryside and rural communities can play in tackling the climate emergency. For too long, the role of the countryside and nature based-solutions have played second fiddle to large, glitzy ambitions.

‘Today’s report from the Committee on Climate Change shows that tackling the climate emergency, caring for the countryside and rebuilding the economy post-pandemic can, and must, go hand in hand.’

Nature’s toolbox

The countryside is rich in potential, with many proposed actions benefiting not only work against the climate emergency but also bringing jobs, aiding rural economies and enhancing wellbeing. As the report says: ‘Investing in nature, including in our towns and cities, offers another quick route to opportunities for highly-skilled employment, and outcomes that improve people’s lives.’

CPRE agrees. Crispin Truman urges the government to call upon the ‘toolbox’ that the countryside can offer:

‘Let’s harness the awesome power of our countryside and rural communities to tackle the climate emergency head on. That means properly investing in rural public transport, delivering renewables sensitively and investing in nature-based solutions like peatland restoration and hedgerows.

‘We know that some of the best ways to reduce our emissions make our countryside more resilient. That’s why we’re calling on the government to scale up action to tap into nature’s toolbox and by investing in countryside and nature-based solutions to the climate emergency – like increasing hedgerow cover by 40 per cent by 2050.’

Now is the time

The annual report also emphasises the challenges that coronavirus threw up – but also the potential that this moment of great change can offer.

The CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said: ‘The UK is facing its biggest economic shock for a generation. Meanwhile, the global crisis of climate change is accelerating. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address these urgent challenges together; it’s there for the taking.’

Want to be a part of a movement that advocates for the countryside and the role it can play in the ‘new normal’? Learn more about what we’re working on and how you can get involved.

A flooded street with water almost covering car rooftops
Flooded streets near Bradford in 2015