Richard's Horizon Scan
Following the first day of Commons report stage this week, the Environment Bill now faces several months of delay before progressing further. The nature sector will continue efforts to improve the Bill, including enshrining a landmark State of Nature target within it, to ensure that bold words on recovering nature by 2030 on an international stage are matched by meaningful deeds at home. The Bill is the Government’s chance to blaze a legislative trail for others to follow in this vital COP year –the Bill must return bigger and better than before.
Environmental Policy News
The Marine 'Super Year' kicks off
2021 has already been labelled a ‘super year’ for the marine environment, and January lived up to the billing. New evidence from the Marine Conservation Society, showing harmful bottom trawling occurring in 98 per cent of protected areas, received widespread press coverage early in the month and was followed by the launch of two major campaigns to end such environmental damage and recover our ocean. WWF & Sky launched their ‘ocean hero’ campaign with a major report on the value of restoring the sea to health, highlighting economic benefits that could boost the economy £50 billion by 2050. Surfers Against Sewage declared an Ocean and Climate Emergency, with the launch of a petition calling on the UK Government to ensure the ocean is at the centre of climate conversations at COP26. Pressure for meaningful Government action to deliver a ‘blue recovery’ to benefit people and planet will heighten further over the months ahead.
New vision for planning launched
On 14 January Link and 17 other organisations, from nature, housing, transport and heritage sectors, launched a new vision for planning, setting out eleven principles for a better planning system. The vision included proposals for new planning designations that would create new spaces for nature to recover in, known as Highly Protected Areas and Nature Recovery Areas. With a new Planning Bill expected in the later half of this year, Link will continue to highlight how planning can make a positive contribution to nature’s recovery, rather than perpetuating the sustained habitat loss seen over recent decades.
Concerns raised about pesticide approval
A Government decision to give emergency authorisation to seeds treated with the bee-toxic neonicotinoid thiamethoxam has caused significant concern across the nature and sustainable farming sectors. Link joined over thirty other organisations in writing a letter of objection to Defra, accompanied by a request for full publication of the evidence which informed the decision. The authorisation is particular concern as it overrides a Ministerial assurance given in 2018 to maintain the ban on neonicotinoids post Brexit. Wider assurances that Brexit will not lead to environmental regression may also now be called into question – given the u-turn on neonicotinoids, how much weight do these assurances really have? A lot of reassurance is needed over the coming months, backed by concrete action.
Three Link blogs you may have missed:
Where is the England Peat Strategy?
Four Link members highlight the delay in the Peat Strategy and the issues it needs to address.
Poisoning the Environment to Make Ourselves Ill?
Professor Dave Goulson responds to the emergency authorisation of neonicotinoid insecticides.
Hope for our farming future
Georgie Bray, farm manager at RSPB Hope Farm, details how simple but effective changes there have created a wildlife boom.
Sector job vacancies
Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 57 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. You can learn more about Link’s policy work here.
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