New RSPB report: put money into nature to creates jobs, enhance biodiversity and save lives

RSPB urges candidates in May’s England metro mayoral elections to make investing in nature a priority, as a new report says it could create jobs, reduce inequality and save the NHS £billions – saving lives in the process.

The report Recovering togther 2 published today summarises the social, environmental and economic benefits of investing in nature.

In numbers:

  • £2.1 billion – annual saving to the NHS if everyone in England had good access to greenspace.
  • £16 billion – cost to the UK economy of failing to protect nature and reverse biodiversity loss.
  • £60 billion – the value of environmental goods and services to the UK economy in 2015.
  • 750,000 – number of full-time equivalent jobs supported by the natural environment in the UK.
  • 11 million – number of people in England living in areas with limited access to greenspace.
  • 84% – percentage of adults in England in favour of the Government increasing the number of accessible nature-rich areas.

The RSPB is urging sitting England metro mayors and candidates standing in May’s mayoral elections to make investing in nature a priority, as a new report suggests it could save lives by improving public health and reducing inequality in access to nature-rich greenspace.

Recovering together 2 draws on studies by organisations including Public Health England, the Office for National Statistics and WWF to present evidence for the value of nature’s contribution to our health, economy and prosperity.

Brown Hare, copyright Glyn Sellors, from the surfbirds galleries

The report points to evidence of inequality in access to nature and its benefits for people from different economic groups and ethnic backgrounds, and corresponding differences in health outcomes.

The reported statistics on access to nature include:

  • People with an annual household income of less than £10,000 are 3.6 times more likely to have no outdoor space, and 40% less likely to live close to any publicly accessible nature-rich greenspace than the richest 10% of households.
  • The most affluent 20% of urban wards in England have five times more parks and green spaces than the most deprived 10% of wards.
  • “Black people in England are nearly four times as likely as White people to have no outdoor space at home” – ONS.

Inequality in health outcomes from COVID-19

  • ONS data shows that the COVID-19 mortality rate in the most deprived areas in England has been more than double that in the least deprived areas.
  • An ONS report on COVID-19 related deaths by ethnic group found that “Black males are 4.2 times more likely to die from a COVID19-related death and Black females are 4.3 times more likely than White ethnicity males and females.”

Emma Marsh, Director, RSPB England said: “It is clear from this report not only that investing in nature will create jobs at a time when they are desperately needed, but that doing so is essential for addressing some of the most pressing social and health inequalities in the parts of our towns and cities where people currently have little access to nature and greenspace.

“England’s metro-mayors have a crucial role to play as the elected leaders of some of our biggest cities and metropolitan areas. With elections coming up in May for many of them, we are asking all sitting and would-be mayors to put investing in nature at the top of their agendas so that no-one gets left behind as we look to level up the country.”

Recovering together 2 follows the publication earlier this year of the first Recovering together report on the results of RSPB-commissioned YouGov research that found people in England overwhelmingly support protecting and investing in nature as part of our economic recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

As well as jobs, health and the economy, investing in nature is vital for addressing the twin climate and ecological emergencies, and can help bring wildlife back to the nature-depleted urban environments from which it has been lost.

Birds, bees, bats and butterflies all stand to benefit too, from investment that increases the number of trees and nature-rich green spaces in our towns and cities or creates new wetlands that help protect homes and businesses from flooding.

Emma Marsh: “Climate change and biodiversity loss have not gone away as problems during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the urgency of the need to take action has never been greater. That public support for action on climate change and protecting nature is as strong as ever speaks volumes about how important nature has been to people this year.

“It is not only people who will benefit from increasing and enhancing nature-rich greenspace – wildlife will welcome the change too. Having more trees, parks, wetlands and wildflowers where we live is good for us, it is good for wildlife, and it is good for the environment. The only question is why we aren’t investing more already.”

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