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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.

October 2021

Hannah's Horizon Scan

The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) is out, and with-it comes confirmation that the Treasury has failed to grasp the full scale of the ecological crisis. Whilst some measures, including an uplift in Defra’s departmental budget, an extra £124 million for the Nature for Climate Fund and £250m for species, habitats and Environment Bill implementation are an improvement on previous years, they still fall short of the £1.2 billion per year needed to restore priority habitats and protect wildlife. Indeed, £1.2 billion per year is the minimum amount calculated by Link as necessary to recover nature and to meet 2030 nature targets, as well as helping to meet the 2050 net zero target (as with nature, CSR funding for climate action was also well below par). With COP26 days away, and the climate & nature crises inextricably linked, it represents an uncertain start to hoped-for UK environmental leadership.

Environmental Policy News

COP26: Nature for Climate 

Over the coming weeks, members from across the Link network will be in Glasgow for COP26 to make the case for recovering nature to help avert climate breakdown. The case for nature’s deployment for climate aims is a strong one. The case for nature’s deployment for climate aims is a strong one. In addition to the ethical case for restoring the natural world humanity has degraded, and the social, health and economic benefits we will accrue from its restoration, flourishing natural habitats help protect us from climate impacts such as floods and heatwaves and reduces the emission of further carbon.

This climate mitigation potential is likely to be the focus of much COP discussion – RSPB, WWF & University of Aberdeen research has shown that investment in nature-based solutions could cover a third of the UK’s current carbon emissions, helping us to meet our Paris Agreement commitment to keep temperature rises under 1.5 °C. As COP26 host, the UK Government has acknowledged this nature potential on paper; the next few weeks will determine whether they successfully champion and advance it on a global stage.

Environment Bill: Progress on single use items

As ‘ping-pong’ between the House of Lords and the House of Commons on the Environment Bill continues, the Government has made a major concession that will reduce resource consumption. Link’s Waste and Resources Group welcomed the plastics charging power originally included in the bill, designed to disincentivise the use of single use plastics, but raised significant concerns about its limited scope. Given the increased use of materials other than plastic for single use items, Link was concerned that the plastics-focused charge would simply lead to a switch to the alternatives, some of which are even more damaging to the environment than plastic is.

Following a Lords amendment to widen the charging power to all single-use materials in order to avoid this outcome, the Government decided to back the change. On 20 October Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP confirmed in the Commons that the Government would ‘‘allow the charge to be imposed on single-use items made from any material, not just plastic. This charge will help us to future-proof the bill and…incentivise the right shifts towards more reusable alternatives to single-use items and towards a circular economy’’. Whilst this Government concession is hugely welcome, there are many more to secure and Link will continue working closely with Greener UK to improve the bill as it enters its final stages.

Digging deeper to secure a bright farming future 

On 14 October Link’s Agriculture Group launched a new report setting out the actions required to ensure the success of the farming transition. This major change in farming, underpinned by the Agriculture Act 2020, will see farmers rewarded for the public goods they provide, including reduced carbon emissions and improved biodiversity. Taken as a whole, the transition should secure a sustainable future for farming, and contribute to nature’s recovery and climate mitigation. However, as the new Link ‘Digging Deeper’ report makes clear, this transition is in danger of failing to make the changes needed to effectively contribute to nature and climate targets.

Highlighting that there is a lot of detail still needed on the specifics of the transition, the report proposes a clear, up-front ambition for nature (include a minimum requirement to manage 10% of farming land for nature’s recovery), along with swift action to confirm the new regulatory baseline and system for enforcement. To further help farmers prepare, the report also recommends the establishment of a new advice and training programme to help farmers through the transition. The benefits of such early action will be manifold - as the report notes the new farming system could be ‘driving species recovery, climate action and sustainable food production from 2024 onward’.

Bulletin Board

Link blogs you may have missed:

Power to the People to Revive our Rivers
Mark Lloyd, CEO of The Rivers Trust, shares why 'knowledge is power' when it comes to our freshwater environment.

Concerted action is needed on Environmental Rights

Co-Chair of the Link Legal Strategy Group Carol Day makes the case for a Environmental Rights Act, to secure access to environmental justice for all.

Gene editing for livestock is not the answer, rare breeds are

After the government announced that it will be relaxing rules on gene editing, Christopher Price, CEO of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, discusses the potential risks of gene editing for livestock.

Blueprint's Water Resources Webinars

Link's Blueprint for Water Group are delivering a series of webinars to support environmental stakeholders to get to grips with regional planning. The series will give insight into the policy framework and shared challenges of regional planning, and provide a forum for reps to discuss issues faced locally. The full webinar schedule, plus registration details for events on 2nd November and 7th December, can be found here.

Young Trustees Movement
A new group is aiming is to double the number of trustees aged 30 and under on charity boards by 2024, as part of a wider call for diversity on trustee boards. You can find out more about the movement, and their upcoming training sessions for young people here.

Archaeological Achievement Awards

An awards event to celebrate archaeological achievements from across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland will take place in November 2021. You can nominate here (deadline 31 October).

Sector job vacancies:

A list of job opportunities across the Link network can be found here, including roles with including roles with the Floodplain Meadows Partnership and the RSPB.

Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 62 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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