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An environment for success

With the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan on the way, WWT is launching a new campaign for the policies the plan needs to succeed: email your MP here. It’s #TimeToBeHeard.

October 2017

The Government has promised a 25 Year Plan to improve our environment.

There are a thousand ways it could be done.

Some people will turn to tax incentives and financial markets; others will look to new laws and the courts; others still will suggest community action and developing local responsibility.

Properly conceived, it’s possible that many of these policy approaches could work.

Today, WWT is publishing a new report, Nature’s Way, with our proposals for the plan.

At our launch event in Parliament, we’ll be joined by green-minded MPs from across the House of Commons: Caroline Lucas, Tom Brake, Mary Creagh and Zac Goldsmith. These MPs are able to look beyond the myopia of party politics to see the common environmental interest we all share—and our aim will be to inspire other MPs by their example.

To do that, the environment sector must also stand united.

One bright side of the environmental risk we’re facing today is the way it’s brought the movement together: from the big organisations like RSPB and National Trust (dubbed the charismatic megafauna of the environment sector by Mr Gove) to their smaller cousins like Buglife and the Sustainable Food Trust, everyone is putting aside organisational interests in pursuit of a common goal.

So, as we launch our campaign, we’d like to thank our many inspired and dedicated friends across the environment sector. Many of the ideas in the report were sown in our discussions. Karen Ellis and Angela Francis on economic instruments; Robin Wynde and Kate Jennings on sites and species; Steph Hilborne and Tony Juniper on planning; Matt Shardlow, Tom West and Laura Grant on targets and institutions – so many more.

The work of Wildlife and Countryside Link and Greener UK, and the many brilliant and tireless folk who support the coalitions, is essential in creating this intellectual common ground.

So, the details today may be WWT’s, but we hope the hallmarks of a strong 25 year plan we’ve identified go some way to articulating our shared views. To succeed, the plan must be:

  1. A plan to last: its main components will eventually need to be set out in law. We propose an Environment Act, with legally-binding targets, enacting the environmental principles (polluter pays, precaution, and sustainable development), and creating new institutions to offer expert advice and hold Government to account.
  2. A plan to grow: combining large-scale public investment in nature with new markets to attract private capital investments in natural capital. This will mean sustained and substantial public investment in public goods provided by farmers, as well as new green investment plans. It will mean new nature-focused markets, targeted using ecological opportunity mapping.
  3. A plan for everyone: recognising the public health and social benefits of equitable access to nature, and opening up the development of the plan for public consultation. To keep the plan alive, we propose regular public and Parliamentary reporting.

In other words, to repeat a mantra you may have heard before, the plan needs milestones, money and monitoring—supported by mapping and markets!

Raising the cross-party political energy to achieve this kind of Environment Plan will be difficult. But there’s reason to hope: Mr Gove’s early ambition and energy opens the door. Now, the dedication of a core of hard-working environmental champions in Parliament and the wonderful team-working across the conservation sector really can create the environment for success.

Please campaign with us today for a greener, cleaner future and a strong Environment Plan.

Richard Benwell is Head of Government Affairs at WWT and is Co-chair of Link's 25 Year Plan Working Group

Find Richard on Twitter @RSBenwell

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author’s and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.