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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what happened in the last month. 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 Ellie Ward. To subscribe please enter your email here.

June 2021

Tallulah's Horizon Scan

June has been an exciting month for animal welfare, with the second reading of the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill in the House of Lords. The bill is a real step forward for welfare - the Animal Sentience Committee (ASC) created by it has the potential be an effective body, working to increase recognition and application of animal sentience principles across all policy formulation. Link is working with peers to make sure this potential is fulfilled! We have also welcomed the new Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill that will ban (at long last) the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening. The next few months in Parliament will be critical for the welfare of farm, companion and wild animals alike.

Environmental Policy News

State of Nature - the devil in the detail
Last month we welcomed commitments made by the Environment Secretary towards halting the decline of nature by 2030. The detail has now come forward, as an amendment to the Environment Bill, and we can now sadly confirm a failure on the part of Government to set a meaningful target to halt nature’s decline. The target now proposed for the Environment Bill commits the Government to “furthering” (not delivering) the objective of halting species decline. This means that the Government could set a target that slightly slows the decline of nature, but there’s no requirement whatsoever in law to actually halt the decline.

This falls short of the action needed for nature’s recovery and could weaken the UK’s advocacy of nature based solutions to climate breakdown at COP26. The gap between nature rhetoric and policy reality needs to be closed. We are urging the Government to rewrite the amendment to the Bill with a firm 2030 target to actually halt nature’s decline, and thank the peers of all parties who are working to achieve this as the Environment Bill goes through the Lords – and the 200,000 people backing the campaign! There is still time to deliver a true net zero for nature, and a moral obligation and political imperative to do so.

Better news: Major Infrastructure Projects and the Environment Bill
We have welcomed the Government response to the Dasgupta Review that committed to delivering a “nature positive” future, in which we “leave the environment in a better state than we found it, and ensure economic and financial decision-making is geared towards delivering that”.

A particular cause for celebration is the decision to amend the Environment Bill to apply Biodiversity Net Gain, a new planning condition requiring developers to achieve at least a 10% uplift in biodiversity through their development, to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This is a long-standing Link policy ask, although it is important that scope is widened to include all major infrastructure projects, such as the hybrid bills, which delivered Crossrail and HS2, and any future new consent mechanism. Links’ statement on the Dasgupta response, including our call for a fundamental reform of the Treasury that puts nature at the heart of economic decisions can be found here.

Progress on Highly Protected Marine Areas
The long wait for the Government to respond to last year’s Benyon Review, and its recommendation for a new network of Highly Protected Marine Areas, has now come to an end. On June 8th, World Ocean Day, the Government announced their intention of piloting the Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), to begin at the end of 2022.

For these sites to function effectively, the Government must be committed to supporting scientific and ecological monitoring through adequate funding, whilst supporting coastal communities to facilitate their participation in the project. Link will be pushing for confirmation of this, and for Ministers to outline detailed plans for achieving 30% of our waters being fully or highly protected by 2030. If the HPMAs take these measures into account, they will play a crucial role in protecting and restoring Britain’s marine habitats.

New AONBs positive - but more action required to make 30x30 count
Last week the Government issued a Ministerial Statement on the Glover Landscape Review in which the Government did not issue a long-delayed response to the Review, but, to the disappointment of many in the sector, merely renewed its commitment to respond later this year. In the same statement, they confirmed that two new Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONBs) and two extensions of AONBs were under consideration.

National Parks and AONBs provide many benefits for nature, climate and people, but much of our protected landscapes are not in a good condition for nature. Improvements are needed for both existing and new protected landscapes to deliver Government promises to protect 30% of land by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. Only by strengthening the purposes, management and resources of protected landscapes can Government reliably include these places in its promise to protect 30% of the land for nature.

Bulletin Board

Three Link blogs you may have missed:

Planning should be at the heart of reaching net-zero
Signe Norberg, Head of Public Affairs and Communications at the Aldersgate Group, discusses why the planning system must integrate climate and environment objectives.

A call for a truly ambitious Seabird Conservation Strategy
Jacques Villemot, Marine Policy Officer at RSPB, explains the international importance of the UK's seabird populations.

When will the government realise that National Parks hold the key to tackling climate change?
Anita Konrad, Chief Executive of Campaign for National Parks, looks at the work already underway in National Parks to mitigate against and adapt to climate change – and what more is needed.

Climate and Ecology Bill returns to Westminster

On Monday 21 June, Caroline Lucas MP gave an updated version of CEE Bill its first reading in the House of Commons in this new 2021-22 parliamentary session. Second reading is scheduled for 10 September. You can read more abut the bill, and the campaign supporting it, here.

England Woodland Creation Offer now open for applications

EWCO opened for applications on 9 June 2021 and supports the creation of new woodland. The grant is administered by the Forestry Commission and is funded through the Nature for Climate Fund - application details can be found here.

Sector job vacancies:

A list of job opportunities across the Link network can be found here, including roles with the Freshwater Habitats Trust, River Thame Conservation Trust, and Waterwise.

Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 60 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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