Election fever is upon us. In a week's time, we will have a new Government and may face further political uncertainty and flux. But some things are certain – we know we are in the midst of a climate and nature emergency and we need urgent action. As I blogged recently, the State of Nature 2019 report shows that the decline in nature continues unabated. Time is running out to secure nature’s recovery and it is essential that the new Government’s plans are proportionate to this challenge.
In the context of the planning system, this means questioning how we can deliver the homes the country needs without irreversible damage to nature. It means ensuring our most special places for nature remain protected but also committing to delivering more for nature through development.
It means legislating to avoid impacts in the first place and to ensure that that all developments deliver an overall gain for nature. Such a mechanism could be transformative, contributing to a joined-up network of new habitats that support our existing special places and providing new nature reserves and green spaces so people can access nature. It would mean improving the quality of where people live and in turn, significantly improving peoples’ quality of life – homes would be set within rolling parkland and children would be able to play safely in the woods. England would be a green and pleasant land again…
Whilst the principle of development doing more for nature sounds simple, there are some key tenets that must underpin any new system:
Providing gains for nature will not only support wildlife but also provide wider ecosystem benefits – the flooding in Yorkshire has highlighted the dangers of our changing climate and the need for a system change. Restoring nature can reinstate natural flood management solutions, shore up carbon stores and help improve water quality. Bringing natural greenspace and sustainable drainage systems into and around developments can help absorb heat during the hottest months and avoid flash flooding by storing water until floodwaters have receded. And by urgently legislating so all new homes meet the highest sustainability standards (e.g. zero carbon) and are climate-resilient we can reduce emissions, reduce our water use and help reduce climate impacts on people and nature.
If all this sounds like motherhood and apple pie well it is! The public gets it – indeed this has been billed as the Climate Election – we just need the commitment from Government to drive this forward.
To find out more about how you can help nature during this General Election, look here.
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