In the UK, Labour Party voters have been promised that they will be able to vote for the Green New Deal in the next election. It is, in fact, a radical program to reduce the carbonising of society and the economy by 2030, consisting of the phasing out of fossil fuels, investing in renewable energy sources and creating a public works program to build the zero-carbon infrastructure of the future.
Restoring forests and other natural habitats to 25% of the UK’s land surface could sequester 14% of the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions each year. With the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the expansion of ecosystems at the same time, they could eventually remove much larger amounts of carbon dioxide in the future.
Often called “natural climate solution”, restoring forests and wetlands draws carbon down from the atmosphere and stores it in the tissue of new vegetation and soil. On a large scale, and alongside leaving fossil fuels in the ground, this could help to limit global warming to well below 2°.
Habitats like this can be restored by rewilding, which would help support natural processes by stopping the drainage of the peat land or, for example, letting forests grow. In addition, the reintroduction of species that were once on that soil and extinct can also help ecosystems to recover and thrive. While letting nature take care of itself isn’t appropriate in all cases, rewilding is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to resist climate breakdown and wildlife loss at the same time.
The idea of a Green New Deal – a state-led investment programme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restore ecosystems while creating jobs and reducing inequality – has swept the world in the last year. Except in the UK, this idea came to life in Germany and was supported by the Green Party and became officially the position and demand of this party. In the US, all the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for president support a Green New Deal. In Brussels, the (Conservative) European Commission president-elect, Ursula von der Leyen, has declared that she wants a “European Green Deal” to be the EU’s “hallmark” policy.