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UN International Day of Forests and further funding for bus retrofitting

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Para-ecologists – the paramedics of the rainforest

Image of a man touching a tree in a rainforest.
A para-ecologist at work in the rainforest. Credit: University of Sussex.

Today (Thursday 21 March) marks UN International Day of Forests and is a time to celebrate individuals working hard to protect the planet’s precious trees and forests. To mark the occasion, Defra is highlighting the work of a group of ‘para-ecologists’ – the paramedics of the rainforest.

This new generation of data collectors and support scientists – just like paramedics – are proving vital to the overall health of the rainforest ecosystem thanks to projects funded through the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative.

Since 2001, the University of Sussex has led five projects designed to train and build scientific knowledge of nature with local people and received almost £1million in backing from the Darwin Initiative, with some UK aid, over this period.

This includes funding for several projects to help villagers in Papua New Guinea become para-ecologists and protect their country’s treasured rainforest. These individuals are now providing vital scientific knowledge that is changing minds on the ground and helping people gain new livelihoods, which is contributing to the protection of some of the world’s most important habitats.

This year’s event coincides with the Government’s Year of Green Action, a drive throughout 2019 to help people to connect with, protect and enhance nature – both in the UK and abroad.

Para-ecologist, Joseph Kua said:

I am amazed with the current job I have. I can see that I am really contributing to educating local landowners about the importance of forest conservation.

We carry out biodiversity surveying in the rainforest which is essential to make sure that the area will be protected. If we do not know what is there, then we can’t make sure it will be conserved for future generations.

Joachim Yalang, also one of the Para-ecologists, said:

Currently, I am involved in a program in my community which tries to restore forest back to its original state. I am happy that I have a job which involves research and rainforest conservation because it enables me to give back to my community what I have learnt and make them aware of the importance of rainforest and conservation.

Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey said:

UN International Day of Forests is a chance to celebrate the wonderful individuals around the globe who are dedicated to protecting our flora and fauna. This initiative reinforces the Government’s commitment to protect the most diverse forests for nature and tackle illegal logging.

The Darwin Initiative continues to support hundreds of projects that restore and enhance wildlife and nature. It’s another fine example of our support for action at home and abroad to ensure we are the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.

Read the full story on GOV.UK.

Further funding for bus retrofitting

Image of sun in a blue sky
Photo credit: Getty Images

Today (Thursday 21 March) we announced further Government support for 14 local authorities through a £25 million funding boost to the Clean Bus Technology Fund.

The fund, launched in 2017, retrofits buses with technology to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions in areas with poor air quality.

This extra cash injection follows last year’s £40 million grant to 20 local authorities, which allowed councils to work with bus companies and technology providers to bring buses up to low emission standards.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said:

I am delighted to announce a further £25 million to retrofit 1,817 buses through the Clean Bus Technology Fund.

We all know that air pollution is the top environmental risk to health in the UK. Nitrogen dioxide emissions must be lowered if we want to ensure cleaner and healthier air across the country.

Local authorities are the best placed to introduce systems that work for their areas, which is why we are working closely with them to ensure they have the appropriate funding and support.

This boost will support the 2017 UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations, which sets out how councils with the worst levels of air pollution at busy road junctions and hotspots will take robust action.

Transport Minister Jesse Norman said:

We are committed to driving down emissions across all modes of transport, and I’m delighted to see the bus industry putting itself at the forefront of this.

This £25m investment will help the sector work towards the continued acceleration of low emission buses and a 100% low emission bus fleet in England and Wales.

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