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West Midlands Natural Environment Plan: 2021 - 2026


We can make the West Midlands the green heart of the UK.

It's been an exciting year for environmental policy in the West Midlands. In March, we approved our first Five-Year Plan, setting out a comprehensive set of actions to put us on course to reach net zero by 2041. In May, I was re-elected for a second term with a manifesto that put tackling climate change front and centre. In July, we hosted the International Net Zero Summit alongside UK100, demonstrating to Government Ministers the crucial role of local leaders in cutting emissions. We recently launched a transport Green Paper, showing how we intend.

to cut transport emissions and provide better alternatives to the car. And very soon we’ll be launching our Circular Economy strategy, outlining the steps we can take to cut waste and create a more sustainable region.

These actions will prove crucial in tackling both the climate and air quality emergencies, but just as important to our net zero plans is the third strand of our strategy – that of tackling the ecological emergency. Our region’s patchwork of post- industrial landscape, dense urban neighbourhoods and picture-perfect greenbelt is teeming with wildlife and greenery. This vast ecological diversity holds huge potential to mitigate the effects of climate change in all sorts of ways, from reducing the risk of flooding to directly removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. But until now, the drive for economic growth has often come at the expense of our natural environment. Decades of expansive development on our greenbelt and nature-negative city planning has forced wildlife out, hampering our ability to fight climate change.

That is why our Natural Environment Plan is so important, and why I am delighted to be outlining a set of actions that will help restore this region’s biodiversity. The plan focusses on four priority themes: access to greenspace; tree and hedgerow planting; wildlife corridors and what we call ‘enablers’, such as our Natural Capital Investment Plan. It also highlights the important benefits of nature for people’s health and wellbeing – something the Covid pandemic has shone a light on, especially for those living in our denser urban areas with little access to greenspace. Addressing these challenges will be tricky, but doing so will create new jobs and with them, new training and apprenticeship opportunities for West Midlands residents.

This plan is underpinned by our ongoing work to create a programme of Community Green Grants, drive tree planting with our Virtual Forest initiative, and support the creation of a West Midlands National Park. Central to our efforts are our public and private sector partners across the region, and I am grateful to each and every one of them for their input and ongoing support. I hope this plan does justice to our aspiration to bring biodiversity back to our region, and I look forward to the work that lies ahead.

Andy Street
Mayor of the West Midlands

Natural capital, including water, clean air, trees and wildlife, is a central part of the region’s work on improving the environment and tackling climate change. Important in its own right, nature is also central to creating better places for all of us. This could be a green corridor that we cycle along as part of a morning commute; easy access to a park for our children to play in; or a local woodland to walk in as part of our leisure time.

Our local authorities are already making fantastic progress in delivering great natural capital schemes and some of them are included in this plan as examples of leading national and regional best practice. Regional environmental NGOs are also delivering some great programmes of work involving communities and young people in improving their local environments, providing opportunities to gain valuable skills and training in the process. We will encourage and support acceleration of existing initiatives that build public awareness and engagement to create a regional momentum and national profile for our activity.

We can no longer separate the natural environment from other parts of the work we do across the region; it now needs to be fully integrated with our social and economic agendas. For the plan we are presenting here to be successful, it will need to be linked into our work around housing, skills and transport in the way we are now seeing with other work on environment, for example our work on net zero.

Further, as our climate continues to change, natural capital and nature-based solutions will be key to improving regional resilience and providing a means for us to adapt. This might be through cooling provided by increased urban tree-planting or through natural flood mitigation measures. This plan makes a commitment to better understanding the role that natural capital can play in this context.

This first five year Natural Environment Plan for the region will seek to coordinate efforts across the combined authority area. We will need to work with constituent and non-constituent authorities; business; communities and with environmental NGOs and third sector organisations. Our activities will celebrate the work that is already happening and find new opportunities for collaboration.

I am excited about the work we are presenting here. It is ambitious, but so important that we work together towards shared outcomes that address both the climate as well as the ecological emergencies that we are facing.

Councillor Ian Courts
Chair of the WMCA Environment and Energy Board