The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), which brings together countries from across the globe to accelerate action to tackle climate change is fast approaching. Many of us are focussing on what can be done to improve our environment and mitigate climate change. There is a huge amount of work taking place at an international, national, and local level. Many of these include nature-based solutions from planting hundreds of thousands of hectares of trees, or Kelp as we’re doing in Sussex, to encouraging more wetland environments such as at Medmerry in Pagham Harbour.
Last week I joined Jane from the National Trust and Ranger Dave, to visit some of the constituency’s newest residents, a pair of beavers who’ve been released into the South Downs National Park at an undisclosed location. Beavers are one of the few creatures that, like humans, change their environment to suit their needs; by felling trees and creating dams. This process is hugely beneficial to the wider ecosystem, creating wetland wooded environments that support a whole host of other species, improving biodiversity and the overall health of the ecosystem.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the beavers as they are primarily nocturnal and understandably terrified of humans; having been hunted to extinction around 400 years ago. However, they did live up to their name as ‘natures architects’ - the area has been transformed in just a few short months – with loads of dams flooding the area, a lovely sign that the two of them are well underway reclaiming their ancestral home.
In Westminster, we are doing a huge amount of work on the green agenda, with much of my time as Skills Minister focussing on developing a pipeline of people with green-skills to fill the jobs of the future. This week we welcomed 15 new recommendations from the Green Jobs Taskforce that I Co-chair with Anne-Marie Trevelyan as the UK Climate Change Minister.
These recommendations will help us become net-zero by 2050 or sooner – by supporting the next generation to have the skills to build our network of electric vehicle charging points, expand our renewable energy capacity and retrofit our homes to be more energy-efficient. I feel very privileged and excited to be working in this area, and we've already made progress with our new skills bootcamp's offering 16-week courses in subjects like, green transport, net-zero retrofitting, and agri-tech woodland management. I was also delighted that Chichester College, in partnership with the Sussex Chamber of Commerce, have been announced as one of eight new Local Skills Improvement Plan trailblazers – these put the needs of local employers at the heart of skills development, and are a key component to develop green skills.
We have a long road ahead of us, big or small, human or beaver, we all have a part to play.