Turn city roofs into wildlife havens and plant urban trees, climate experts urge government

Ministers should transform Britain’s cities by turning flat roofs into wildlife refuges and creating “green” walls, conservationists say.

Experts are urging the government to launch a range of climate measures, including including in national planning policies that all flat roofs in new developments be made nature-friendly or solar roofs.

Their report also calls on ministers to support the planting of trees in cities and to set targets to provide buildings with green roofs.

The researchers want all four UK governments to “unleash the power of nature” to protect homes and farmland from floods, droughts and heatwaves caused by the climate crisis.

They say using the power of nature for the changes will save taxpayers money in the long run.

Last month, more than 200 scientists for the UN issued a “code red to humanity,” warning that such emergencies will become more common, but said catastrophe could be avoided if world leaders act quickly.

The new report, Nature-based Solutions in UK Climate Adaptation Policy, commissioned by the RSPB and WWF, points out that governments need to act much faster on the basis of expert advice on using nature to help society adapt. adapt to the effects of climate change.

Earlier this year, the government unveiled a plan to plant 44,000 large trees in towns and cities, as part of an ambition to reach at least 12 percent of England covered by forest, up from 10 percent now.

But the researchers say much more funding and support is needed to advance a nature-first approach to flood management, also calling for measures such as re-meandering artificially straightened rivers, restoring peatlands and planting trees in cities and on farms.

Planting hedges over slopes at field boundaries helps reduce flooding and soil erosion and improve water quality, the document explains.

Olly Watts, RSPB’s Climate Change Policy Officer, said: “As our leaders prepare to meet at Cop26, we are sending the message that investing in wildlife restoration will not only help save some of our most iconic and beloved species – including seahorses, otters , hedgehogs, bats, bees, butterflies, frogs and farmland, wetland and garden birds – but it will also benefit people, cool our cities during heat waves, filter polluted air, protect our homes and businesses from flooding and our coastal communities from rising sea levels .”

The report, examined by the University of Oxford’s Nature Based Solutions Initiative, says government could harness nature’s potential to improve the quality of life for residents of the UK, with long-term savings if all costs are incurred. and benefits are included. Isabella O’Dowd, head of climate at WWF, said that in order to slow climate change and restore the planet for the next generation, “it’s critical that the government keeps every climate promise it’s made, including to drastically cut emissions.” reduce and restore nature”.

“Ahead of Cop, we need to see ministers’ words turn into action with a solid and ambitious climate and wildlife plan led by public investment,” she added.

More than 2500 deaths were linked to heatwaves in England last year, and this summer flash floods flooded London’s tube stations and forced hospitals to cancel operations as patients were relocated.

The RSPB says green walls and roofs, with wildflowers and insect-friendly features such as old tree trunks, have blossomed in London’s boroughs after becoming part of local planning policy.

Flat green roofs with a thick bottom layer cool buildings by as much as 12C in the summer, a 2019 report found, and insulate them in winter, reducing flood risks by absorbing water and filtering air.

South-facing green walls can be up to 32C cooler than others, Spanish research shows, saving 59 percent energy and providing soundproofing.

In seas and rivers, restoring kelp forests and seagrass meadows would help otters and seahorses and reduce the height and strength of waves, preventing flooding along the coast, the report authors said.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment said the Environmental Act would give developers more incentives to include green roofs, walls, trees and other green infrastructure in their development plans, adding: “Our Environmental Act will deliver the most ambitious environmental program of any industry. land on Earth and drive action to protect nature and improve biodiversity, supported by a legally binding target to halt species decline in England by 2030.

“This is in addition to our guaranteed £640m investment in the Nature for Climate Fund for forest creation and peat restoration, plans to triple trees before the end of this Parliament, and increased protection of England’s waters through strong pilots. protected marine areas.”

The government says its National Planning Policy Framework includes green infrastructure standards.

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