This morning, the Environment Secretary George Eustice will give a major speech outlining his plans for how nature will be at the centre of the green recovery.  This is an important moment for the UK Government to offer a clear vision for how they will restore nature in a generation. 

To date, there have been mixed messages emerging from the UK government especially after the Prime Minister’s “build, build, build” speech last month which suggested that rules protecting wildlife were hampering our productivity and prosperity. 

And there was more alarming news over the weekend suggesting that ministers were considering excluding free ports from wildlife protection legislation.

Yet, the press statement issued today poses more questions than answers.  And this is why our Chief Executive, Beccy Speight has issued the following statement:

The pandemic, caused by a zoonotic disease, has caused the biggest shock to our way of life since the second world war. Yet the government has to date failed to articulate how things need to radically change to help address this crisis and the urgent climate and ecological emergency. We need the Prime Minister and his cabinet to be bold and visionary, developing specific proposals to put nature at the heart of the recovery.

Today’s speech by Environment Secretary George Eustice once again fails to do that.

In their election manifesto, the Conservative Party promised world beating legislation that would establish an independent watchdog to replace the powers of the EU and set new, ambitious targets to help nature recover from its current disastrous condition.  We were told reforms of the Common Agriculture Policy would drive billions of pounds of investment into nature-friendly farming.

So far none of these promises have been met and Mr Eustice has failed again to provide any detail of when and how these things will be delivered.

Instead we have a welcome but frankly tiny announcement of new money – well short of the investment that is needed – and a commitment to change the planning system where the purpose and details of that review remain opaque at best or frankly disingenuous.

Of course, any further protections for species are welcome, and we will work actively with the government to ensure that any new proposals do genuinely benefit nature. But we will need to see a step change in delivery before we are convinced that the government’s plans match its 'green' rhetoric.

We urge the UK Government to use this moment to reshape the economy for the long term.  Resist temptation to deregulate to get a short term fix.  Invest in the jobs and natural infrastructure which underpin our prosperity and create a more resilient economy that can withstand future shocks.  Seize the moment and put nature at the heart of our economic recovery.”

Beccy will be on the panel debating the content of Mr Eustice’s speech and I am sure that she will be clearly stating what nature needs:

  • New legislation (in the form of the Environment Bill) to halt the decline in nature and put it on a path to recovery. The UK needs to show leadership by championing similar ambition around the world for example by calling for 30% of land and sea to be well protected and managed for nature by 2030
  • Invest £615 million in restoration and creation of habitats per year for the next 10 years to meet the government’s own ambitions to both restore nature in a generation but also to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use. This would not only create thousands of green jobs, improve our health but also protect us from climate change. We have outlined plans for 330 shovel-ready projects which would provide 5,000 jobs in the environment sector and 5,000 jobs in delivery and wider supply chains.  In the medium term if the UK Government delivers its ambition in the 25-year plan for the environment of half a million hectares of restored habitat, this could mean a further 15,000 jobs in other similar projects.
  • Fundamental reform of agriculture and food policy so that land managers are supported to drive nature’s recovery.
  • A major recovery plan for our seas to restore our water environments and protect the unique wildlife that calls it home.
  • A legally enforceable Net Zero target of greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved by 2045 and investment in nature-based solutions to climate change – including through our programme of Overseas Development Aid (ODA)
  • UK leadership on the global stage by reducing the UK’s ecological footprint through reform of trade and consumption patterns 

You can sign up to watch Mr Eustice's speech and the subsequent debate here.

*Image of little terns courtesy of Kevin Simmonds (rspb-images.com)

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