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England’s farmers to be paid to rewild land

England’s farmers to be paid to rewild land

Nature recovery schemes are part of post-Brexit subsidies overhaul, but eco campaigners are sceptical

Farmers in England will be given taxpayers’ cash to rewild their land, under plans for large-scale nature recovery projects announced by the government. These will lead to vast tracts of land being newly managed to conserve species, provide habitats for wildlife and restore health to rivers and streams.

Bids are being invited for 10-15 pilot projects, each covering at least 500 hectares and up to 5,000 hectares, to a total of approximately 10,000 hectares in the first two-year phase – about 10 times the size of Richmond Park in London. These pilots could involve full rewilding or other forms of management that focus on species recovery and wildlife habitats.

Rare fauna such as sand lizards, water voles and curlews will be targeted, with the aim of improving the status of about half of the most threatened species in England.

The exact funding has not been disclosed, as bids will be compared to determine value for money before a final decision on which should go ahead is made this summer. However, the total amount available for such schemes is expected to reach £700m to £800m a year by 2028. By 2042, the government aims to have up to 300,000 hectares of England covered by such “landscape recovery” projects – an area roughly the size of Lancashire.

Ministers also plan to offer English farmers payments for “local nature recovery”. The smaller-scale actions taken on their farms could include planting more trees, restoring peatlands or wetlands and leaving space for wildlife habitats. These payments, which will be revealed later this year, should also reach up to £800m a year by 2028.

George Eustice, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, said the aim was for wildlife and nature protection to run alongside food production as a matter of course for most farmers. He is expected to tell farmers at the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday: “We want to see profitable farm businesses producing nutritious food and underpinning a growing rural economy, where nature is recovering and people have better access to it. Through our new schemes, we are going to work with farmers and land managers to halt the decline in species, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, increase woodland, improve water and air quality and create more space for nature.”

As well as the two new schemes – landscape recovery and local nature recovery – farmers will also be able to apply for payments to help them protect their soil and take other basic environmental protection measures, under plans announced last year. Funding for these measures will also reach about £800m a year, as part of the post-Brexit overhaul of the £2.4bn-a-year farming subsidies into a system of “public money for public goods”. This means farmers are paid for making environmental improvements, rather than the amount of land they farm.

Water vole
The water vole is one of the rare species to be helped by the schemes. Photograph: Mark Smith/Alamy

Green campaigners were sceptical over whether the new payments would be enough to meet the government’s aim of halting the loss of wild species abundance and managing 30% of land for the good of nature by 2030, as well as ensuring that farmers help to solve the climate crisis rather than add to it. The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and National Trust charities said detail on how the schemes would work was still lacking.

Craig Bennett, the chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The real test of this agricultural transition is not whether it is a little bit better or moderately better than what came before, but whether it will be enough to deliver on [the government’s targets]. Anything less than that means that this historic opportunity will have been wasted. While we’re hearing the right noises from the government, the devil will be in the detail and the detail is still not published nearly six years after the EU referendum.”

The schemes would fail unless more was done to help farmers move away from intensive practices, said Jo Lewis, the policy and strategy director at the Soil Association. This could include the introduction of ambitious targets for reducing pesticide and fertiliser use.

“These schemes won’t work in isolation. They risk failure if they are forced to compete with mounting commercial pressures that encourage more intensive farming and cheap food production, for which the environment and our health ultimately pay the price,” she said.

Though some are benefiting from high grain prices, many farmers are facing a difficult outlook, with rising input costs, plummeting exports due to Brexit red tape, and potential new competition from prospective importers after post-Brexit trade deals.

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The rangers will manage the first wild bison to roam in the UK for thousands of years. Photograph: Tom Gibbs and Donovan Wright


Animals arrive in Kent in spring 2022 and will create forest clearings – described as ‘jet fuel for biodiversity’

Martin Lines, the UK chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said that farmers who already take environmental measures were “left in limbo” before the schemes start in 2024. “Government has been running similar environmental stewardship schemes voluntarily for farmers for 20 or 30 years, yet we still have seen huge declines in wildlife. We need these schemes to be bolder and more ambitious, not just delivering more of the same with minor improvements,” he said.

Tenant farmers, who work on about a third of farmed land in the UK, are concerned over how they can access the new schemes. They also fear that their landlords may take advantage of large-scale rewilding to remove their tenancies.

George Dunn, of the Tenant Farmers Association, said: “It is alarming that, after at least three years of discussions with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it has no clear plan for access to these schemes by tenant farmers. [Current payments] are being removed while we have a vague commitment for further work to be undertaken on how tenants, and those who use common land, can access schemes. It does feel like we are pushing water uphill.”

Mark Tufnell, the president of the Country Land and Business Association, which represents 28,000 farmers, landowners and rural businesses, said: “The government must also ensure that policy changes look towards domestic food production and security. Britain is already at the forefront of agricultural innovation and animal welfare standards, and we must do more to make certain that our great produce is supported here and abroad. We need to guarantee that profitable agriculture remains a core part of the rural economy and feeds the nation sustainably.”


Fiona Harvey at The Guardian

Scotland missed 100% clean electricity consumption in 2020 by only 1.4%

Scotland missed 100% clean electricity consumption in 2020 by only 1.4%

In 2011, Scotland set a target of reaching 100% clean electricity consumption in 2020. And last year, the country almost reached its target – 98.6% of gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources, according to the Scottish government’s December energy statement.

Scotland, which is working to achieve net zero by 2045 – a legally binding target – has one of the most ambitious climate targets in the world.

The BBC notes:

In 2019, Scotland met 90.1% of its equivalent electricity consumption from renewables, according to Scottish government figures.

The 100% target was set in 2011, when renewable technologies generated just 37% of national demand.

Here are Scotland’s energy targets, and what the country has achieved to date:

Energy targetsLatestTarget
Overall renewable energy target: total Scottish energy consumption from renewables25.4% in 202050% by 2030
Renewable electricity target: gross electricity consumption from renewables98.6% in 2020100% by 2020
Renewable heat target: non-electrical heat demand from renewables6.3% in 202011% by 2020
Energy consumption target: Reduction in total energy consumption from 2005-07Down 14.4% in 202012% by 2020
Energy productivity target: percentage change in gross value added achieved from the input of 1 gigawatt hour of energy from 2015Down 5.9% in 2020Up 30% in 2030
Source: Scottish government

61.8% of all electricity generated in Scotland in 2020 was from clean energy sources. There was a 1.9 TWh increase in clean electricity generated in 2020 compared to 2019, mainly from wind and hydro.

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An electric vehicle charging point which uses tidal energy has started operations, providing road users on an island north of mainland Scotland with a new, renewable option for running their cars.


Over the last 50 years, two-thirds of the world’s wildlife has been lost. Around 40 per cent of plant species are threatened with extinction and scientists say we may be losing them faster than they can find, name and study them.

Cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport Michael Matheson said:

Scotland is leading the way internationally with our commitment to be net zero by 2045. This statement shows we are continuing to make good progress with the equivalent of 98.6% of gross electricity consumption being from renewable sources in 2020, which is up from 89.8% in 2019.

Whilst we do have many challenges ahead of us if we are going to meet our ambitious targets, we have laid the groundwork in 2021 for Scotland to take important leaps forward towards net zero.


Michelle Lewis at Electrek

‘Gentle giants’: rangers prepare for return of wild bison to UK

‘Gentle giants’: rangers prepare for return of wild bison to UK

Animals arrive in Kent in spring 2022 and will create forest clearings – described as ‘jet fuel for biodiversity’

When you see them in the wild, there’s this tangible feeling of humility and respect,” says Tom Gibbs, one of the UK’s first two bison rangers. “The size of them instantly demands your respect, although they are quite docile. I wouldn’t say they are scary, but you’re aware of what they can do.”

The rangers will manage the first wild bison to roam in the UK for thousands of years when four animals arrive in north Kent in the spring of 2022. The bison are Europe’s largest land animal – bulls can weigh a tonne – and were extinct in the wild a century ago, but are recovering through reintroduction projects across Europe.

“They are magnificent animals, truly gentle giants,” says colleague Donovan Wright, who spent 20 years working with rhino, cape buffalo and other large animals in southern Africa. “The Kent project is very different, but it’s no less important.”

Wright says: “How amazing will it be to track the largest land mammal in the UK on foot right here in [Kent]? To experience something like this only five miles from Canterbury would be just incredible, and help people reconnect with nature.”

Gibbs and Wright have just returned from training with wild bison herds in the Netherlands, where they were reintroduced in 2007. The £1m Kent project is called Wilder Blean and is run by the Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust, and funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery. A principal aim is for the bison to rewild a dense, former commercial pine forest.

Tom Gibbs (L) and Donovan Wright.
Tom Gibbs (L) and Donovan Wright. Photograph: Tom Gibbs and Donovan Wright

“What makes bison a keystone species is that they strip bark off of trees by rubbing up against them, and by eating it,” says Wright. “Those trees die and that allows light to reach the forest floors. And, wow, that’s like jet fuel for biodiversity – all of a sudden, you’re creating habitats for other species to thrive.

“Also, just by their sheer size, they carve amazing trails through the vegetation, and they love dust bathing, creating big open patches. That’s all fantastic for pioneer plants, insects and sand lizards.” The insects living on the dead wood left behind are amazing for woodpeckers and bats too, Wright says.

The rangers visited the Kraansvlak project in the Netherlands, where people can walk freely through the area occupied by 14 bison and where there has never been a dangerous incident. But part of the training was learning the animals’ behaviour to ensure safety.

“You read the animals, so if they’re giving you signs that they’re not really comfortable with your presence, you just back away,” says Gibbs. The signs include staring, alert ears, heads flicking up and down, pawing of the ground, or the herd fanning out. “In reality, the bison are the ones who maintain the [50 metre safety] distance, by moving away.”

Like the bison in Kraansvlak, the animals in Kent will wear GPS collars, but these can get damaged and so tracking skills are needed to ensure the rangers can find the animals without startling them. Broken twigs and tufts of fur on branches are clues, as well as hoofprints in softer ground.

The rangers also learned how to encourage the bison into a corral for quick health checks. “There are a few tricks of the trade, such as certain foodstuffs,” says Gibbs, but these are kept secret to avoid the public trying to attract the bison unnecessarily. It took five years before the Kraansvlak rangers were confident the public could enter the bison area alone, but Wright is not setting a timescale for the Kent project. “We are treading very carefully,” he says.

The Kent herd will be founded by a young bull from Germany and an older female from the Highland wildlife park in Scotland, who will be the matriarch. “She looks beautiful and we’re really confident that she’s going to be a fantastic leader for the group,” says Gibbs. Two young females from Fota wildlife park in Cork, Ireland, will complete the group, which will roam and feed freely across 210 hectares (519 acres).

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Our world exists in a balance and, with so many species lost or disappearing, that balance is under threat. Restoring this natural mosaic of interrelated species is vital to the future health of the planet and our own, say experts.

The rangers expect the bison to breed – females produce one calf a year – and the site is licensed for up to 10 animals. In future, they hope to provide bison to found other sites in the UK, as well as exchanging animals across Europe. All 7,000 bison living in Europe are descended from just 12 zoo animals, and the species is still classed as vulnerable, so maximising genetic diversity is very important.

Preparations are now under way at Wilder Blean for the arrival of the bison. “We’re putting up a 1.4-metre electric fence to contain the bison and then, on the perimeter, we’ve got a 6ft deer fence to keep the people out,” says Wright.

Ponds are also being dug for the bison to drink from, as well as the longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies and “iron age” pigs that will help restore the landscape. Wright says: “We had another interesting dilemma: how do you get a herd of bison safely over a public footpath [that crosses the site]? The answer was bison-sized tunnels, so we are working on that at the moment.”

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and the rangers hope the bison project will be a beacon for a wider recovery. “By using nature-based solutions, we can really turn the tide and help mitigate the effects of the current climate and biodiversity crises that we face,” says Wright.

“A lot of people feel frustrated about a lack of action but I think this project is a real beacon of what can be done,” says Gibbs. “We can’t wait for the bison to arrive and for them to start doing what they do best.”


Damian Carrington at The Guardian

England will be first country to require new homes to include EV chargers

England will be first country to require new homes to include EV chargers

The British government has introduced legislation that will require all newly built homes and offices to feature electric vehicle chargers in England.

November 22 update: “New homes and buildings such as supermarkets and workplaces, as well as those undergoing major renovation, will be required to install electric vehicle charge points from next year, under new legislation announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson today,” according to the UK government website.

Up to 145,000 extra charge points will be installed across England each year thanks to these regulations, in the run up to 2030 when the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will end in the UK. This builds on the over 250,000 home and workplace charge points the government has already supported to date.

Home and EV chargers in England

Specifically, all new homes and offices will have to feature “smart” charging devices that can automatically charge vehicles during off-peak periods. New office blocks will need to install a charge point for every five parking spaces.

The new law will make England the first country in the world to require all new homes to have EV chargers.

It will also boost confidence in helping those who transition from gas cars to overcome range anxiety, as so many homes in England don’t have off-street parking or garages.

The proposal is part of the movement to rapidly boost the number of chargers across England ahead of the UK’s 2030 ban of new fossil-fuel vehicles. The government originally announced a proposal to mandate that all new homes have a charge point with a parking space in 2019, as Electrek then reported.

Nigel Pocklington, CEO of clean energy company Good Energy, said [via Business Green]:

Flexible charging at home and at workplace during the day is going to be crucial to decarbonizing not just transport but the UK’s entire energy system.

As will better energy efficiency, electrified heating and solar power on 13.5 million homes – we hope to see all these as part of the plans for new homes, too.

The home and office EV charger mandate is expected to start in 2022.

Further, the UK government announced a free app called EV8 Switch yesterday, on World EV Day:

It calculates how much money UK drivers could save by switching to an EV compared to their current petrol or diesel vehicle, along with details on the carbon dioxide (CO2) savings and air quality improvements they could achieve.

Drivers can also see which electric vehicles would be the most suitable for them based on their current vehicle and how switching to electric could fit in with their current lifestyle. Those with the app can also see how close their nearest charge points are, and which journeys can be completed without the need to top up en route.


Michelle Lewis at Electrek

Proposed mine tests UK climate efforts ahead of UN meeting

Proposed mine tests UK climate efforts ahead of UN meeting

In the patchwork of hills, lakes and sea that makes up England’s northwest corner, most people see beauty. Dave Cradduck sees broken dreams.

The coal mine where Cradduck once worked has long closed. The chemical factory that employed thousands is gone. The nuclear power plant is being decommissioned.

For the 74-year-old Cradduck, a plan for a new coal mine that could bring hundreds of jobs is cause for hope.

But environmentalists view it with horror. They say it sends a disastrous message as the United Kingdom welcomes world leaders, advocates, diplomats and scientists to Glasgow, Scotland, for a United Nations climate conference that starts Oct. 31. The two-week COP26 meeting is considered a last chance to nail down carbon-cutting promises that can keep global warming within manageable limits.

“The U.K. sets itself out as a leader, but it’s building a coal mine, which is the most polluting thing that you can do,” said Rebecca Willis, professor of energy and climate governance at Lancaster University. “It sends a signal to the rest of the world that the U.K. isn’t actually serious.”

But Cradduck sees the mine as a sign that “at least someone’s interested in the area.” He says it “will provide jobs for people who have got mining in their blood.”


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Former miner Dave Cradduck who worked at Haig Colliery between 1964 and 1984 poses for a picture at the Haig Colliery Mining Museum close to the site of a proposed new coal mine near the Cumbrian town of Whitehaven in northwest England, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. For the 74-year-old Cradduck, a plan for a new coal mine that could bring hundreds of jobs is cause for hope. But environmentalists view it with horror. They say it sends a disastrous message as the United Kingdom welcomes world leaders, advocates, diplomats and scientists to Glasgow, Scotland, for a United Nations climate conference that starts Oct. 31. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

The proposed new mine symbolizes the dilemma facing the British government: It aims to generate all of the U.K.’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035, and to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also pledged to boost prosperity in England’s neglected north with new factories, roads, railways and other infrastructure that environmentalists say is at odds with the government’s green agenda.

West Cumbria Mining, the company hoping to build Britain’s first deep coal mine in three decades, wants to extract coking coal — a type used to make steel rather than for fuel — from under the Irish Sea. It plans to process the coal on the site of a shuttered chemical plant in Whitehaven, 340 miles (550 kilometers) northwest of London.

The company says this is a new kind of mine, far removed from the dirty, dangerous behemoths whose brick and steel skeletons dot the region’s landscape. Designs show curved modern buildings that blend in with the surrounding hills, and the company says it will be the world’s first net-zero coal mine, with all of its carbon emissions reduced or offset by credits to the Gold Standard Foundation, an environmental organization.

Alexander Greaves, a lawyer for the mining company, said while opening a new coal mine might look bad at first glance, this project aims to be different.

“Showing these mines can be made by law … to capture greenhouse gas emissions and required to offset any residual impact … is true environmental leadership,” he said.

Environmentalists scoff at that idea.


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Members of a public inquiry into the feasibility of a proposed new coal mine make a visit to the site near the town of Whitehaven in northwest England, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

“It’s blindingly obvious that the quickest way to stop these carbon emissions and to make radical changes — which we have to do in the next 10 years — is to stop opening any new coal mines,” said Maggie Mason, a local opponent of the mine. “The same is true for oil wells and gas wells.”

Nature and industry have long vied for supremacy in this part of England. Whitehaven sits on the edge of the Lake District National Park, an area whose beauty inspired William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. But the area once was home to industries that offered hard, dirty jobs in factories and mines. Now, though, wind turbines spin beside the sea — a sign of Britain’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which last year produced almost half of the country’s electricity.

That share shrank this year — partly due to a lack of wind — and with the cost of imported natural gas soaring and plans for new nuclear plants moving at a crawl, the U.K. government is still considering new fossil-fuel projects.

Elsewhere, there’s the Cambo oilfield in the North Atlantic, west of the Shetland islands, where Shell and Siccar Point Energy plan to extract 170 million barrels of oil. Environmental groups are trying to force the British government to stop the drilling, but Johnson’s administration is reluctant to intervene, saying “sources like Cambo are still required” to meet Britain’s energy needs as it shifts to a low-carbon economy.

“We need to transition our existing oil and gas sector to a decarbonized platform,” Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said last month in the House of Commons, accusing Cambo opponents of wanting “a complete eclipse” of the oil and gas industries “with 250,000 jobs vanishing overnight.”

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Poland will have to pay a €500,000 ($586,000) fine for each day it continues extracting coal at an open-pit mine near the Czech and German borders, Europe’s top court ruled Monday, 20 September.

In West Cumbria, the local authority approved the mine a year ago. The area’s Conservative mayor, Mike Starkie, says it will be “transformational.”

The British government, under pressure from opponents and its own environmental commitments, intervened in March and ordered an inquiry by a planning inspector. He says he will make a recommendation around the end of the year. Then the U.K. government will make a final decision — well after COP26 has ended.

Local supporters of the mine believe they are the silent majority, at risk of being drowned out by environmental activists. Some rallied at the site this month, holding signs that read “Part of the answer, not part of the problem” and “Cumbria coke is the real thing.”

“It’s been very simplified in the press that it’s jobs against the climate,” said John Greasley, who helps run a Facebook page in support of the mine. “And, of course, the climate is going to win every time. But it’s deeper than that.”


Jo Kearney & Jill Lawless via Associated Press

Science Museum chooses fossil fuel company as new climate show sponsor

Science Museum chooses fossil fuel company as new climate show sponsor

Campaigners say museum ‘doubling down’ on ‘reckless’ choices of funder with backing from arm of coal giant Adani

The UK’s Science Museum has “doubled down” on its sponsorship of climate exhibitions by fossil fuel companies, campaigners say, by taking funding from a subsidiary of the Adani Group.

Adani is a conglomerate with major holdings in coal, the most polluting fossil fuel. The Energy Revolution gallery, opening in 2023, will be sponsored by Adani’s Green Energy arm.

The museum said the gallery “will explore the latest climate science and the energy revolution needed to cut global dependence on fossil fuels”. Dame Mary Archer, chair of the Science Museum Group, said: “This gallery will take a truly global perspective on the world’s most urgent challenge. We’re hugely grateful to Adani Green Energy for the significant financial support.”

Campaigners called the decision “astonishing” and “reckless”. The Science Museum has attracted heavy criticism over sponsorship deals with oil and gas giants Shell, BP and Equinor. The Shell deal included a contract clause committing the museum not to “damage the goodwill or reputation” of the oil company.

Science Museum chooses fossil fuel company as new climate show sponsor

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/05/31: An Extinction Rebellion activist stands outside the Science Museum in London during the anti-Shell protest.The activists gathered outside the museum in South Kensington once again as part of their ongoing protest against Shell's sponsorship of the Our Future Planet climate change exhibition. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The museum’s former director, climate scientist Prof Chris Rapley, resigned from its advisory board on 2 October over the issue. The museum is hosting the government’s Global Investment Summit on Tuesday, part of the preparations for the crucial Cop26 climate summit at the end of the month in Glasgow.

Adani has said it wants to be the largest renewable energy company in the world by 2030. But it is facing opposition in India and Australia over plans to expand its coal operations. Gautam Adani, group chair, said: “The new gallery will explore how we can power the future through low carbon technologies.”

Jess Worth, from Culture Unstained, said: “Astonishingly, the museum’s management have doubled down and signed up Adani – a coal conglomerate – to sponsor a gallery about the energy transition. Their enthusiasm for fossil fuel partnerships has turned controversy into a crisis of credibility, and they must be held to account for their reckless decisions.”

Adrian Burragubba, an Indigenous traditional owner of land targeted by Adani for a huge coal mine in Australia, said: “By putting this company on a pedestal, the Science Museum is complicit in Adani’s violation of our human rights and destruction of our ancestral lands.”

Sir Ian Blatchford, chief executive of the Science Museum, said: “Adani Green Energy already has one of the world’s largest renewable portfolios and plans to invest $20bn in clean energy over the next 10 years. And be in no doubt, such massive investments are needed to move India from high-carbon to low-carbon energy whilst still meeting their growing energy needs.”

Shell’s sponsorship of the museum’s current climate exhibition, Our Future Planet, has been criticised by scientists, exhibition contributors and Greta Thunberg. On Sunday protesters delivered a huge pile of bin bags to the museum to protest against links to coal.


Damian Carrington at The Guardian