In a short film made by The Wildlife Trusts, the broadcaster and natural historian calls for a greater focus on nature’s “extraordinary powers” to absorb and store carbon, which helps “protect us from extreme weather and flooding”.
World leaders are preparing to meet at the Cop26 environmental conference in Glasgow to see if they can agree on how they can meet their pledges made as part of the Paris Agreement in 2015.
In the film, Sir David says: “Nature has been there for us when we needed it the most, yet we have allowed our natural world and climate to reach breaking point, with almost half of our UK wildlife in decline and some of our best-loved species at risk of extinction.
“As the climate emergency intensifies, the threat to life on earth becomes ever greater. But we have the choice of a better – and wilder – future. A future where wildlife thrives alongside people. A future where nature helps us in the fight against climate change.
“We know that we need to stop burning fossil fuels, but we must also recognise the role of nature in helping us turn the tide.
“We must bring wildlife and wild places back on an ambitious scale, in turn creating new livelihoods and protecting the planet for future generations. Our lives depend on it.”
Sir David said that quick action must be taken to help “nature recover”.
He added: “For decades, The Wildlife Trusts have been leading the way to put nature into recovery; bringing back precious saltmarsh and peatlands; and reintroducing beavers, our natural water engineers.
“But we can’t do it alone.
“It’s not too late to win the fight against the climate and nature crisis. Given the chance, nature can recover in the most remarkable ways.
“But we need to act quickly. The time is now to create a wilder future.”
Craig Bennett, the chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, pointed to the organisation’s research findings – published before chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review earlier this week – that showed government needs to spend £1.2bn extra every year to halt the decline of wildlife.
Twenty-two nature organisations, in England’s biggest nature coalition the Wildlife and Countryside Link, had urged Mr Sunak to spend the money otherwise “key 2030 nature targets and 2035 emissions targets may be missed”.
They added that an estimated extra spend of £5.5bn over 3 years on greater access to improved nature would provide £200bn in healthcare benefits, deliver around 40,000 jobs, and help in levelling up by providing 3,500 deprived communities across the UK with access to green spaces.
Mr Bennett said: “Our society faces a huge challenge with the inextricably linked climate and nature crisis, and so we must invest far more in wilder landscapes to store carbon and protect ourselves and wildlife from extreme weather conditions.
“New research shows that the government needs to commit at least £1.2bn extra each year in nature – to deliver vital health, wellbeing and economic benefits post-pandemic, limit and mitigate the impact of extreme weather, and restore our treasured wildlife.
“It’s not too late to repair habitats on a grand scale to store carbon and help nature recover – but we need to act now.”