Aviva helps restore rare native British rainforests

Last week, Aviva announced a £38 million donation to restore Britain’s lost temperate rainforests in the UK. Aviva believes this is one of the most effective nature based interventions to help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The restored rainforests will also provide a positive contribution to the nature and biodiversity crisis, as well as supporting flood protection and resilience. The donation is an exciting part of Aviva’s Net Zero 2040 ambition.

What are temperate rainforests?

Native to the British Isles, temperate rainforest is an incredibly rare and biodiverse habitat that once stretched from Cornwall to the west of Scotland. Now it covers less than 1% of the UK, in areas such as western Scotland, the Lake District and western Wales, and is thought to be more rare than tropical rainforests.

The project sees Aviva partner with The Wildlife Trusts, a federation of 46 local Wildlife Trusts that care for more than 2,300 nature reserves in the UK with local communities at their heart. It aims to re-establish temperate rainforest by planting a combination of native tree species including oak, birch, holly, rowan, alder and willow trees across an area equivalent to around 2,600 football pitches or around 5,200 acres.

The donation builds on Aviva Ireland’s recent €5m donation to the Nature Trust, to help accelerate its native tree afforestation project. It also supports Aviva’s ambition to make the UK the most climate-ready economy following the recent launch of Aviva’s climate-ready campaign.

Environmental benefits and biodiversity

The restored temperate rainforest will remove an estimated 800,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the next 100 years. This is equivalent to the emissions created by one person taking over 740,000 transatlantic flights.1

The carbon removal will begin from 2024 and will be at its fastest around 2060 when the forests are expected to be removing about 24,000 tonnes CO2 each year.  The carbon removal will continue at a slower rate well beyond 2130. The whole woodland creation programme is expected to bring about a net reduction in atmospheric carbon levels from 2036 onwards. It's expected that by 2040, when Aviva plans to be a Net Zero company, the projects will already have removed more than 34,000 tonnes of emissions from the atmosphere.

The carbon removal should deliver significant biodiversity and climate change adaptation benefits by creating habitat that can support flora including mosses, lichen, ferns and a host of unusual plants and wildlife such as wood warblers, bats, pine martens and red squirrels. The increase in woodland should also help to moderate water flows and improve shading in the hotter, drier conditions expected with climate change.

Community involvement, public benefits and volunteering

The Wildlife Trusts have a long history of working alongside people to help nature recover – communities will be at the heart of restoring these rainforests. Rainforests will add to the natural beauty and cultural heritage of each area, as well as providing the potential for volunteering, green jobs and tourism.  The Wildlife Trusts’ temperate rainforest sites will be accessible to the public, which can improve mental health and wellbeing, encourage physical activity and build stronger communities.

All UK-based Aviva colleagues will have the opportunity to use their volunteering leave at Wildlife Trust venues including the temperate rainforest sites. All Aviva employees can take three days paid volunteering leave every year.

Amanda Blanc, Aviva Group Chief Executive Officer

“The fact that Britain’s native rainforests will take carbon out of the Earth’s atmosphere is reason enough to restore them. But on top of that, they’re incredibly rare and beautiful. This vital work we are undertaking with The Wildlife Trusts will give communities access to these sites, improve wellbeing and show how biodiversity fights and reduces the impacts of climate change. Aviva is proud to play its role to re-establish temperate rainforests in the UK, helping the UK become the world’s most climate-ready large economy.”

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“The Wildlife Trusts have very strict criteria for what we consider to be a very high integrity carbon credit scheme. Aviva’s approach meets our high standards. We’re excited that we’ll now be able to work with many more communities to help nature fight back, improve climate resilience and enhance the lives of all those involved through these projects.”

“We believe that there needs to be a huge increase in nature-based solutions to climate change – but it’s critical that these solutions are not used as an excuse to carry on with a polluting ‘business as usual’ model which fails to reduce emissions at source. Too often, businesses try to ‘put the genie back into the bottle’ – but Aviva is taking a more far-sighted approach. It is investing in restoring nature to store carbon 20 years before the carbon associated with Aviva’s potential investments goes into the atmosphere. This is to be applauded.” 

While we are working towards our sustainability ambitions, we acknowledge that we have relationships with businesses and existing assets that may be associated with significant emissions. More information can be found at https://www.aviva.com/sustainability/climate/

1 Calculated using BEIS GHG conversion factors of 0.19kg/CO2e per passenger km

© Crown copyright and database right 2022. Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. Met Office; Hollis, D.; McCarthy, M.; Kendon, M.; Legg, T.; Simpson, I. (2021): HadUK-Grid Gridded Climate Observations on a 1km grid over the UK, v1.0.3.0 (1862-2020). NERC EDS Centre for Environmental Data Analysis, 08 September 2021. http://dx.doi.org/10.5285/786b3ce6be54468496a3e11ce2f2669c . Temperate Rainforest Zones derived from methodology described by Ellis, Christopher. ‘Oceanic and Temperate Rainforest Climates and Their Epiphyte Indicators in Britain’. Ecological Indicators 70 (2016): 125-33