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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.

April 2021

Emma's Horizon Scan

It’s a been a quieter month in the world of nature policy, with Government departments in purdah ahead of the elections on 6 May. This doesn’t mean that political discourse has been nature free! Such is the growing public interest in nature and climate that green issues are increasingly at the centre of the campaign trail – from mayoral candidates competing with each other to plant more trees, to PCC candidates pledging to tackle wildlife crime. The harder task starts after 6 May of course, when newly elected decision makers need to follow promises with action. Delivery of policies to help nature recover at a local level is as important as delivery at a national level - Link will be scrutinising both closely over the coming months.

Environmental Policy News

Will this be a 'Marine Super Year'?
Back in January the Government declared that they would use the UK’s COP presidency to make 2021 a ‘Marine Super Year’. Four months on, and it could be argued that this honorific has already been achieved – albeit not quite in the way the Government intended. The popularity of the Seaspiracy documentary has seen issues around ocean health catapulted into the public consciousness and stoked a growing demand for meaningful reform. Despite questions about some of the claims made in the documentary, it clear that in this new landscape warm words on ocean recovery will not be sufficient – to be truly ‘super’ the Government’s marine programme will need to achieve a measurable step up in the health of our seas. To assist the Government in achieving this sea-change, Link’s Marine Group has published a Marine Scorecard, setting out five priority areas for marine action that would enable the Government to deliver on its Marine Super Year ambition. Link will be ranking the extent of the Government’s progress on ocean recovery according to these criteria at the end of the year. Over to you Defra…

The Environment Bill – will you nae come back again?
It has been nearly 100 days since the Environment Bill was paused in the House of Commons – and over 18 months since it was first introduced to Parliament. Ahead of the Queens Speech on 11 May, the hope and expectation is that this coming session of Parliament might at last be the one that sees the Environment Bill complete its long journey to the statue book. The altered timing of the Bill seems likely to lead to one silver lining; its critical stages will take place in the immediate run up to COP26 and CBD. This is the spotlight moment for nature, and the role a restored natural world can play in staving off ecological and climate disaster. The campaign calling on the Government to seize this unique moment, by placing a State of Nature target on the face of the Environment Bill to reverse the decline of species and habitats in England by 2030, continues to grow. April 1st saw MPs receive a ‘newspaper from the future’, reporting on the joys recovered nature would bring, from sparkling seas to soaring farm profits. This year’s April Fool could be 2030’s reality – starting with the returning of the Environment Bill.

Lead shot ban moves closer
Evidence of the harms caused by lead ammunition continues to grow - high mortality amongst waterbirds, weakened immunity for other species, cognitive impairment for children; all can be traced back to lead entering the food chain from the use of lead shot. With a five-year voluntary phase out from the shooting industry failing so far to reduce the amount of lead shot in use, the Government has announced consideration of an outright ban through the new UK REACH process. It feels like an important and welcome moment – one of the first major pieces of work undertaken in the post Brexit chemical regulation system will be to consider action on a chemical that harms the environment. The drawback is the timescale, Natural England & HSE have been given two years. With lead poisoning killing an estimated 75,000 waterbirds every year, can this wait be justified? Link members are exploring ways to accelerate this timeframe.

Bulletin Board

Three Link blogs you may have missed:

The State of Woods and Trees
Nick Philips, Head of Conservation Policy at the Woodland Trust, reflects on on the findings from a major new assessment of the UK’s native woods and trees.

The Countryside Code
Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Natural England, celebrates the relaunch of the Countryside Code

Can London’s leaders step up to challenge?
Neil Sinden, Director of CPRE London and convener of the More Natural Coalition, reflects on the Mayoral Environment Debate the Coalition hosted between London Mayoral candidates on 21 April 2021.

State of Nature, State of Mind: a webinar on nature and mental health

On 11 May Link are hosting a webinar to discuss how people’s mental health can benefit from access to a thriving natural environment. You can register here.

Launch of new report on nature-based solutions

The launch event for a landmark British Ecological Society report, offering the first comprehensive assessment of the potential of nature-based solutions in the UK, will take place on 12 May. You can register here.

Declaring a Nature Emergency in Sheffield

Nature Recovery Sheffield, a coalition including Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, Sheffield Greenpeace & Sheffield Friends of the Earth, plans to declare a Nature Emergency for Sheffield on Friday 21st May. Find out more and take part here.

Sector job vacancies:

A list of job opportunities across the Link network can be found here, including roles with Naturewatch Foundation and The Rivers Trust.

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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