Defra's climate change plan flags up value of green spaces

Defra has recognised the value of green spaces in cooling urban environments and contributing to health targets as part of its new climate change plan.

Defra's Climate Change Plan 2010 also recognises the critical role of trees in adaptation. Defra secretary Hilary Benn explained: "Our natural environment is our greatest asset.

"We can't help ourselves if we don't do the same for our ecosystems - they play a vital role in helping society to adapt."

The plan sets out the benefits of green infrastructure in climate change adaptation and highlights that "properly managed, urban green spaces can help manage surface water flooding, filter pollution and cool the city air by up to 2 degsC".

It also highlights Natural England research that found increasing physical activity through access to quality green spaces could save the NHS around £2.1bn every year. One of the actions that Defra has pledged is to encourage greater use of green infrastructure.

It has jointly commissioned work with Communities and Local Government (CLG) to bring together evidence on green infrastructure. It is due to be published later this month.

The aim is to show local authorities how green infrastructure can help to deliver local, regional and national policy objectives. Updated planning guidance from CLG England is now out for consultation until 1 June on the development of green infrastructure.

The publication of Climate Change Plan 2010 coincided with the launch of the Woodland Carbon Task Force by the Forestry Commission and Defra, charged with kick-starting an increase in new woodland planting.

In November last year, Defra backed a new Forestry Commission report Combating Climate Change: A Role for UK Forests that highlighted the fact that UK woodland cover stands at 12 per cent of total land - one of the lowest levels in Europe.

The report gave an overall UK target figure of 23,000ha of new planting per year over the next 40 years, which represents a four per cent increase in overall UK tree cover to 16 per cent.

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