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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what's happened in February. For updates from our working groups, please go to the policy hub. If you would like to submit news items for our monthly e-bulletin, please contact Jodie Le Marquand. To subscribe please enter your email at the bottom of the page.

Environment Bill

The Environment Bill has received its Second reading and the first amendments have now been tabled for Committee Stage, including Link-GUK targets amendments.

The Second Reading debate was wide-ranging, with constructive challenges from across the House.

Plastics waste and the need to reduce materials use featured well, as well as pressure to strengthen the governance framework. There were good challenges about the need to link the Environment Bill with agricultural reform and Government’s wider nature-restoration agenda.

We will now be working in partnership to focus further attention on the whole breath of our proposed amendments, including targets, Local Nature Recovery Strategies, water and marine matters. For example, we will be arguing that the targets framework must be more comprehensive, with strong delivery plans, to provide an envelope of ambition for the rest of the Bill and to show UK leadership in advance of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

So far, Government is engaging openly with stakeholders around the Bill and is keen to present its work as world-leading, but there is little sign of further flexibility on the detail of the Bill.

Future farming papers published to mixed response

Defra published two highly anticipated papers in February, one on its whole ‘Future Farming’ programme and one specifically on its flagship environmental land management (ELM) policy. In broad terms, these papers set out a welcome trajectory for farming and land management in England. There is strong emphasis on the delivery of public goods, and clear recognition that long-term food production and security rely on a resilient natural environment and a stable climate.

However, there is a distinct lack of progress in some areas. For instance, the papers are very vague on plans to reform farm regulation and enforcement, as recommended by Dame Glenys Stacey. In other areas, there are concerning signs of dilution of the policy’s environmental ambition. In particular, deadweight options have been mooted for the lower tier of ELM that hark back to those of the much-maligned Entry Level Stewardship.

The fact that very little has been nailed down means it’s all still to play for, and we could yet see the ground-breaking reform we’re hoping for. We will work hard with Defra over the coming weeks and months to make sure these issues are addressed so that their future farming programme delivers for win-win-wins for people, nature and climate. You can read a more detailed analysis of the papers in Tom Lancaster’s blog.

February's blogs and publication

This month, we saw further progression of both the Environment Bill, and its second reading, and the Agriculture Bill, reaching committee stage.

Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager at The Wildlife Trusts, explains how the Agriculture Bill presents a welcome transformative vision for agriculture in which payments will be made to farmers to tackle the climate and nature crisis. However, the bill is silent on the rules and regulations for farming in the future.

Tom Lancaster, Head of Land, Seas and Climate at RSPB commented that Bills are like Buses, with the policy taps truly flowing in 2020. His blog details the good and the bad of Defra’s plans for future farming and their environment land management scheme.

Other blogs this month include Julia Eriksen, Phil Michaels Legal Scholar at Friends of the Earth, explaining how legislative reforms are frustrating access to environmental justice and Jack Cornish, Don’t Lose Your Way Programme Manager at the Ramblers, on why we could lose thousands of miles of historic footpaths across our beautiful countryside unless we act now.

Link blogs, publications and press releases this month:
Greener UK/Link Agriculture Bill committee stage briefing
Our right to challenge environment decisions at risk
Greener UK/Link Environment Bill second reading briefing
Link Future Home Standards consultation response
From packaging to porpoises, how forever chemicals in the food aisle impact our environment
Link principles for woodland expansion
Joint the search to save thousands of miles of lost historic paths
Link bycatch parliamentary briefing
8 steps to woodlands for climate, nature and people
Link Trophy hunting call for evidence
Link Trophy hunting consultation response
New report reveals major gaps in environmental protections post-EU Exit for soils and hedgerows
The devil is in the detail for future farming aspirations

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