18 July 2023
Celebrities, charities and the public want radical new commitments for nature from politicians at the 2024 general election
- Major ‘Nature 2030’ campaign launches today with landmark 5-point plan for nature
- The 5 key asks of political parties include: doubling the wildlife-friendly farming budget, making polluters pay for nature restoration, a large-scale green jobs creation scheme, increased protection and funding for wildlife sites and a new law guaranteeing environmental rights
- New research shows the public is unimpressed with the Government’s performance on the environment. Only 1 in 10 (8-13%) think the Government is performing well on key environmental issues, with Brits wanting greater environmental ambition from politicians
- The vast majority of the British public, of all political persuasions, support ambitious new measures to help nature recover by 2030
Celebrities including Steve Backshall, Chris Packham, Megan McCubbin and Mya-Rose Craig, alongside a coalition of 80 charities led by Wildlife and Countryside Link, are urging all political parties to ramp up their ambition on environmental issues in the forthcoming general election. 
The charities, including the National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and Woodland Trust, are today launching the Nature 2030 campaign. The campaign outlines a 5-point plan of landmark measures needed to restore nature by 2030. The coalition is calling on all political parties to get behind these proposals in their general election manifestos to deliver on public appetite for greater environmental ambition and to meet binding targets for nature by 2030 and climate by 2050.
New research has found very low public satisfaction with Government spending and performance on the environment, with high demand for more ambitious environmental commitments from politicians.  Key findings include:
- Only around 1 in 10 Brits think that the Government is performing well in key environmental areas. Even Conservative voters are underwhelmed by the Government’s performance, with a maximum of 21% thinking the Government is doing well on any key nature issue
- More than half of Brits (53%) say Government is not doing or spending enough on environmental issues, with Labour and Lib Dem voters feeling particularly strongly that there is a lack of ambition. 73% and 78% of previous Labour and Lib dem voters respectively, say not enough is being done or spent on the environment
- All five of the headline policies nature experts are proposing are well supported by the public, with support of 68% to 83% for each measure (with only between 4-10% of the public opposing any of the measures).  Making big business behave more environmentally responsibly is the measure the public back most strongly, with 83% supporting requiring businesses to pay to clean up the pollution they create (including 57% strongly supporting) and just 5% opposing
- Support Is very high across voters of all political stripes, but is highest among Lib Dem voters with support of 78-91% for the measures, compared to 71-86% for Labour voters and 63-83% of Conservative voters
Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link said: “Next year, the environment will be a major election battleground. Like rivals in an Attenborough film, politicians will be vying to be seen to be greener. But vague promises to be nice to nature simply won’t suffice. Our research shows that people are deeply unhappy with the lack of progress for nature, and that the majority of us want to see the investment and regulation needed to restore our natural world.
“The Nature 2030 campaign, backed by 80 charities, challenges all party leaders to commit to five radical reforms needed to halt the decline of wildlife by 2030 - greener farming, green jobs, polluter levies for big business, more wildlife sites, and environmental rights for all. We’re inviting everyone to sign our open letter to party leaders, so that when the politicians next lock horns, it will be clear to everyone who is really willing to take action for nature.”
Naturalist and explorer Steve Backshall, said: “Everywhere I’ve travelled nature is on a knife edge. From the river at the bottom of my garden, to the bottom of the ocean, to the furthest reaches of the Amazon, I don’t know how much longer we have to save threatened wildlife and restore nature.
“Two years ago, I was pleased to welcome the Government’s legal target to stop wildlife losses here in England, but since then I’ve seen nothing like the scale of action needed to make it happen, just more political point-scoring. That’s why I’m backing the Nature 2030 campaign, and its five demands to turn things around. Nature isn’t a ‘nice thing to have’, it’s a necessity, and it’s time that all political parties stepped forward to deliver better for nature.”
Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust, said: “With a general election on the horizon, and widespread support for greater environmental action, we need to see all political parties step up their ambition to respond to the nature crisis. The UK remains one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and the evidence is clear that, without major change, there’s simply no prospect of halting the decline of nature by 2030.
“Poll after poll shows that the public want a better future for our rivers and wildlife, for the changing climate, and for our next generation. And the recent People’s Plan for Nature, published by the first UK-wide citizens’ assembly on the topic, made clear that nature must be at the heart of all decision-making – not treated as an add-on. Political parties have a simple choice ahead of them, commit to action to support nature or face complicity in its collapse.”
Further quotes from Mya-Rose Craig, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, the Woodland Trust, Friends of the Earth and Caroline Lucas MP can be found in the notes to editors.
The Nature 2030 campaign asks are being launched today (18 July) at a parliamentary event with leading politicians including speakers The Rt Hon Sir Ed Davey, Natural Environment Minister Trudy Harrison, Alex Sobel MP and Caroline Lucas MP. The 5 landmark commitments nature experts are seeking from political parties are:
- A pay rise for nature and farmers: Doubling the nature-friendly farming budget to £6bn pay for ambitious farm improvements and large-scale nature restoration
- Making polluters pay: Putting a Nature Recovery Obligation in law, requiring polluting big businesses to deliver environmental improvement plans, and funding to counter the damage they cause to nature
- More space for nature by 2030: A 30x30 rapid delivery programme restoring protected sites and landscapes and creating a Public Nature Estate to fulfil the promise to protect 30% of the land and sea for nature, and deliver more nature in all communities.
- Delivering the green jobs we need: A National Nature Service, delivering wide scale habitat restoration and creating thousands of green jobs
- A Right to a Healthy Environment: establishing a human right to clean air and water and access to nature, building nature into decision making, enabling people to hold decision makers to account and driving changes that will recover nature and improve public health.
In 2022, the UK signed an international deal to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030. In England, that promise is underpinned by a legal duty in the Environment Act 2021 to stop the decline of species abundance, and a commitment to protect 30% of the land and sea for nature.
This leaves just seven years to turn environmental promises into reality. However, as the Office for Environmental Protection concluded, ‘the current pace and scale of action will not deliver the changes necessary to significantly improve the environment’. For nature, this means loss of irreplaceable habitats and 15% of our wildlife species at risk of extinction. For people and businesses, it means continued decline of air, water and nature will harm health and prosperity. For the climate, there is no hope of meeting net zero without restoring nature. The current Government has been quick with words but slower with delivery and the Nature 2030 coalition is urging commitments that will make a rapid change on the ground.
The coalition of charities is today also urging members of the public to add their name to an open letter being sent to all the main political parties to call for more radical nature commitments. Members of the public can add their name here: https://bit.ly/nature_2030
Banner image - Julian Gazzard
Notes to editors:
Facts on nature decline in the UK:
- The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, with more than one in seven native wildlife species facing extinction and more than 40% in decline.
- Against a target of protecting 30% of the land and sea for nature by 2030, just 3% of land and 4% of sea is effectively protected for nature in the UK.
- Half of British butterfly species are threatened with extinction
- 70 species of bird are on the red list of conservation concern
- A quarter of UK mammal species are at risk of extinction
- In 2022, 301,091 sewage spills were reported discharging in England, 14,008 in Scotland and 74,066 in Wales. Sewage discharged for 2.4 million hours across England, Scotland and Wales.
- The UK annual average level of PM10 particle pollution for 2022 was 13.9μg/m3, against a recognised health standard of 10μg/m3 – a level the Government does not expect to meet until 2040.
- Species abundance targets are currently set with the expectation of decline until 2030 followed by a slow recovery on 2030 levels, which means that by 2042 England could have less wildlife than it does today
- Details of the 70+ supporters of the Nature 2030 campaign can be found here along with embargoed Nature 2030 polling findings and policy report.
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2136 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29-30 June 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Only around 1 in 10 Brits(8-13%) think that the Government is performing well in key environmental areas. The environmental issues where the Government is perceived to be performing most badly are: water quality (61% say they are doing badly), encouraging greater environmental responsibility from businesses (49% say badly) supporting nature-friendly farming (47% say badly) and air quality (47% say badly)Full polling questions and responses (embargoed until 18 July) are available, along with a further breakdown of the polling findings at the following link.
- 8 key environmental areas were assessed: nature-friendly farming, restoring wildlife populations, environmental responsibility from big business, creating new green jobs, improving local access to nature, improving water quality, improving air quality, and protecting and sufficiently funding publicly owned and protected nature sites.
The environmental issues where the current Government is perceived to be performing most badly are: water quality (61% say it is doing badly, including 39% say very badly and only 8% say they are doing well), encouraging greater environmental responsibility from businesses (49% say badly) supporting nature-friendly farming (47% say badly) and air quality (47% say badly). Improving local access to nature was where the Government were seen to be performing least poorly but almost 4 in 10 Brits (38%) think the Government is performing badly on this issue and only 13% think it is doing well.
- Members of the public were asked whether they would support the introduction of the following policies by Government:-
- Doubling the budget for the scheme which pays farmers to protect the environment and produce food more sustainably (the Environmental Land Management scheme)
- A legal obligation for large businesses to report on their environmental impact and produce plans on helping climate and nature
- A legal obligation for large businesses to contribute financially to tackle the pollution they contribute to
- Increasing the number of green jobs in the country
- A new law creating legally protected rights to clean air, clean water and local access to nature
- Stronger protections and increased funding for existing nature sites and publicly owned land (like National Parks and Forestry commission land)
- Creation of new publicly owned nature spaces
- Legally protecting more places for nature Reforming National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Nature Beauty to increase their role in nature recovery
- Additional quotes:
Mya-Rose Craig said: “Environmental justice and social justice go hand-in-hand. After decades of failed promises for nature, it’s often the poorest and most marginalised communities who will face the worst effects of the climate and ecological crisis. We have to take action for nature if we want to take action for people. That’s why I’m supporting the Nature 2030 campaign for action to halt the decline of nature now, with its proposals for an Environmental Rights Bill and a new Nature Recovery Obligation to make big businesses who pollute pay to restore our environment. Vague green promises won’t cut it in this General Election.”
Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB, said: “Enough warm words from politicians about nature – it’s time for some action. The public is demanding just this, but politicians still don’t seem to be listening. The UK has already lost millions of birds from our skies and 70% of our bird species are under serious threat. Without radical action from the next government, we stand a very real threat of losing more of our iconic wildlife by 2030, breaking promises made and continuing the thinning of our natural world to our own detriment.
“We need big commitments to urgent landscape restoration and reforming our protected areas, giving more people access to nature and its health benefits, encouraging greater environmental responsibility from business, and creating the green jobs needed to help us deliver all of this. It’s time for all political parties to sign up to these asks as a minimum.”
Craig Bennett, Chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “We need a vote for nature ahead of the next election and all parties should be championing this five-point plan. Commitments to end nature’s decline by 2030 can’t just be warm words on the lips – politicians must back on-the-ground action that helps wildlife and wild places recover now, both on land and at sea. A major shift in political ambition for nature is needed at the heart of all parties’ manifestos.
Darren Moorcroft, CEO of the Woodland Trust, said: "Nature loss must not be boxed as simply a green issue. The fate of wildlife is intimately connected with our own survival. Everyone in the conservation sector knows that not enough is being done by government to tackle this. Glacial progress on tree planting and a failure to fund the restoration of our oldest woods means we're not capitalising on the key solutions we have. It's why it would be remiss of us not to repeat again today – government need to act now, invest in nature and reap the huge returns for all of us of that investment. The cost of failure will be felt by everyone.”
Miriam Turner, co-executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: “We all have the right to a healthy environment. Voters want the freedom to enjoy nature and benefit from clean air, water and an abundance of plants and wildlife. Ahead of the next general election, we’re calling on all parties to pledge to enshrine this right in law, giving people the power to hold decision-makers to account on the urgent action needed to bring nature back from the brink. Protecting the environment should be central to all policymaking, if we are to future-proof our economy and food production and safeguard our health and wellbeing."
Caroline Lucas MP said: “Our natural world is in a state of emergency - with wildlife populations plummeting, polluted air threatening human health, and toxic sewage pumping into our waterways. Warm words alone won’t reverse nature’s rapid decline - it’s time for action. That means major public investment in nature-friendly farming, delivering on ambitious targets to restore habitats, and committing to make clean air a human right for all.”
Wildlife and Countryside Link is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 76 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. Our members campaign to conserve, enhance and access our landscapes, animals, plants, habitats, rivers and seas. Together we have the support of over eight million people in the UK and directly protect over 750,000 hectares of land and 800 miles of coastline.