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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.

December 2023

The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) has begun this week and will run until 12th December. It is essential that these talks lead to ambitious new policies to combat the climate and ecological crisis. The UK Government has made a number of nature announcements to mark COP, including a search for a new National Park and new woodlands, with the promise of more to come. These policies must be laser-focussed on delivery; new headline-friendly announcements are welcome, but it is increased funding and stronger regulation, designed to achieve existing Environment Act targets and commitments made at last year’s COP15 GBF, that will make all the difference for nature’s recovery.

Environmental Policy News

King’s Speech: A mixed bag for animal welfare and nature

On 7th November, the King’s Speech confirmed the Government would introduce an Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill, to ban the export of domestic cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses for slaughter. Celebrations about the Bill, which would reduce the unnecessary suffering caused to farm animals by long sea journeys to destinations with lower standards for slaughter, were slightly tempered by the fact that legislation had been previously promised. The Kept Animals Bill, introduced to Parliament in June 2021, had included proposals to ban live exports, before being denied parliamentary time and finally killed off in June 2023. Animal welfare organisations have urged the Government to progress the new Live Exports Bill as swiftly as possible, to actually get a live exports ban on the statue book.

On nature policy, the best King’s Speech news was an omission. The threat of a bill to allow more nutrient pollution, a worrying prospect a few months ago, did not come to pass. Indeed, the Autumn Statement on 22nd November re-affirmed £110 million for the Local Nutrient Mitigation Fund, a key fund to tackle nutrient pollution, first announced in the Spring then mothballed in the summer. The re-commitment to the fund, as called for by Link, represented a rare positive decision for nature, in a King’s Speech and Autumn Statement largely devoid of mention of the nature emergency and ways it could be tackled. Individual Parliamentarians have tried to fill the gap with a series of new Private Members Bills - look out for bills on ecocide and heritage trees as they progress through the Lords over the coming months.

    Final push to ban lead shot

    After decades of advocacy from environmentalists, and years of slow policy progression from Government, a ban on the use of lead shot in hunting is closer than ever before. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is consulting on the socio-economic impacts of proposed restrictions on the use of lead ammunition, including a complete ban on the use of lead shot in hunting and new rules to reduce the use of lead shot and lead bullets in outdoor target shooting. After the consultation closes on 10 December, HSE will recommend that Ministers approve a final package of restriction proposals.

    Ministerial approval and swift implementation of a ban would remove a significant pressure on wild bird populations. Accidental ingestion of toxic lead is estimated to lead to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary bird deaths a year in the UK, with impacts being concentrated amongst particularly vulnerable waterbird and birds of prey species. Prolonged animal suffering from lead poisoning, and human health impacts from eating meat shot with lead, provide further imperatives for action. The RSPB and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust are encouraging individuals and organisations who care about nature recovery and animal welfare to respond to the consultation – resources to help you do so can be found here.

    Marine Spatial Planning: New Link policy document published

    With offshore wind scaling up rapidly in the UK ocean, demand for sea-space is increasing. At the same time, there is more evidence than ever before that the ocean is near an ecological tipping point, with marine species in sharp decline. Link’s Marine Strategy Group is working on policy proposals to reconcile these two drivers of marine policy. In November, the Group published ‘Guiding principles for marine spatial planning’, setting out how a reformed system of marine planning could deliver both more renewable energy at sea and meaningfully protect more of the ocean for nature.

    Look out for more work from Link on this theme over the coming months, applying to both terrestrial (including freshwater) and marine planning. As demand for limited space increases on land and sea, the primacy of the threat posed by the climate and ecological emergency must underpin policy decisions, along with recognition of the indivisibility of the crisis. There is no hope of net zero without restoring nature, and no hope for nature without net zero. Policy solutions must speak to both sides of the environmental coin if they are to deliver in time.

    Bulletin Board

    Link blogs you may have missed:

    Local Nature Recovery Strategies: Sowing the seeds for success
    With the LNRSs poised and ready to begin work to save their local wildlife across England, Meg Griffiths, Conservation Officer at Plantlife, writes about Plantlife's recently published guidance to make sure that the strategies have everything they need to work for wild plants and fungi species.

    Violation Tracker UK: Tracking the regulation of our waterways

    Dr Maia Kirby writes about how data can be used to follow regulation of the water industry.

    Why farming changes do not tick the box on cross compliance

    Verity Winn, Senior Policy Officer (Agriculture), RSPB and Hannah Blitzer, Policy Officer, Wildlife & Countryside Link, highlight how gaps will be created in protections for water, soil and hedgerows when cross compliance for farmers and land managers ceases to apply from January 2024.

    Match funding opportunity for environmental charities
    Big Give is partnering with the Environmental Funders Network (EFN) to launch its Green Match Fund campaign for the fourth year, designed specifically for charities working on environmental issues. Applications from charities interested in participating can be submitted until Tuesday 16th January 2024, details here.

    A warm welcome to National Landscapes
    On 22nd November, all designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England and Wales became National Landscapes.

    New petition launched on animal activity star ratings
    A new petition has been launched to require animal activity star ratings, given as part of the animal activity licensing process, to be publicly displayed by local authorities. You can support the petition here.

    Sector job vacancies:
    A list of job opportunities across the Link network can be found here, including roles with the RSPB and the League Against Cruel Sports.

    Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 80 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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    The Wildlife and Countryside Link team

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