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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what's happened in September. 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 Jodie Le Marquand. To subscribe please enter your email at the bottom of the page.

Killer whale wipe out warning prompts calls for urgent Government action

Link responded to a new report warning that 50% of orca populations could be wiped out by the banned chemical pollutant, PCBs. Members called on Michael Gove and Defra to take urgent action and commit to binding targets to safely destroy toxic PCB stocks by 2028 in a new Environment Act. Comments from members were featured in national press with coverage on ITV and BBC 10 o’clock news as well as The Guardian, Metro, Yahoo news, CNN, the Aberdeen Express and more. The PCBs sub-group will continue to push Defra for progress on this urgent issue.

Shared Principles launched by water companies and environment charities

This month, Link’s Blueprint for Water, together with nine water companies, launched their Shared Principles - a set of five principles designed to deliver more effective working on joint issues and to support both sectors’ roles as environmental stewards. The water companies have this month submitted their business plans for 2020-25, and this is the first time water companies and charities have agreed on how to work together ahead of these plans. Water companies and eNGOs have a strong track record of working together to improve the water environment and these principles seek to ensure that this continues. Together, the Blueprint and water companies have collaborated on innovation and ideas, the development of policies and have worked successfully in partnership on projects as wide ranging as water efficiency, customer engagement and catchment management.
The principles were accompanied by a series of blogs, explaining each principle in greater detail.

The Link team also secured a wide range of coverage in water and environment trade press to support the launch of the principles and established stronger links with water company communications teams.

Positive steps on the Agriculture Bill, but we’re not out of the woods yet

The Government published its long awaited Agriculture Bill on 12 September. Link was pleased to see that the Bill does allow for public money to be paid for delivery of public goods – for which we have long advocated and as we reiterated in our letter to the Prime Minister in August. However, this provision must be given priority in the Bill over other demands on public funding, such as productivity support, if the Government is to achieve its ambition of leaving the environment in a better state for the next generation.

In its current form, the Bill also fails to give farmers certainty on a long-term funding settlement, and to establish a strong regulatory baseline to secure essential environmental protections and underpin taxpayers’ investment. We will be following the Bill closely during its passage through Parliament to ensure it really does secure a bright future for farming and the environment.

Concerns over Westminster Government’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goals
This month, Link, with the help of our sister Links in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, responded to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).

The member countries of the United Nations have an agreed set of “Sustainable Development Goals” (UNSDGs) which the UN describes as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” The goals set targets for each country to tackle- among other things- the causes of poverty, inequality, climate change and environmental degradation.

We raised concerns with the Environmental Audit Committee that the Westminster Government does not seem to be taking the SDGs seriously, placing too little emphasis on achieving the goals at home, seeing them instead as more of an international development issue. The Government also does not appear to have a coherent plan to achieve the goals.

For example, in the context of the SDG goal “life on land”, we have seen a decrease of 56% since 1970 of the combined measure of abundance and distribution of protected species in the UK, whilst the Government’s ‘Agenda 2030’ report into delivering the SDGs under Goal 15 fails to acknowledge that biodiversity loss is at critical levels in Great Britain.

Along with our sister Links, we will continue to urge all four governments in the UK to work hard to meet the SDGs, which are so vital to the future health and wellbeing of people and the planet. The SDGs will also be the focus of the Environment Links UK conference on 3 October.

Why should Labour care about food, farming and the environment?

Link joined forces with Sustain and SERA on Tuesday 25 September to host a lively session with Barry Gardiner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Minister for International Climate Change, at the Labour Party Conference.

Speakers from across our networks put forward their reasons as to why a sustainable food and farming system is for the benefit of the many, not the few, after which Martin Spray CBE, Chief Executive at WWT, chaired a discussed with Barry Gardiner. The event can be watched here and the online discussion is at #SERAFarming.

Global protection for whales continues after tough week at IWC

The global moratorium on whaling was maintained at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Brazil this month. Despite a proposal from Japan that aimed to reinstate commercial whaling, countries united to vote against the proposal 41 votes to 27. This shows that support to protect the majestic mammals in our oceans continues. Members of Link’s Whales Group worked alongside Defra officials, EU states and other anti-whaling nations to secure this historic success. Congratulations to all involved.

September blogs and publications

A set of watery blogs accompanied the launch of the shared principles between environment NGOs and water companies. The set of principles pave the way for collaborative working, ensuring protection of our environment for the benefit of both people and wildlife. Blogs written by authors across sectors set out the need for collaborative working across water policy, planning and practise. Ali Morse, Water Policy & Catchment Technical Specialist at WWF, highlighted the major similarity between both the private and charity sectors, the need for a strong environment and how innovation can help us protect it.

Joint work has a long history of success; Nathan Richardson, Senior Water Policy Officer at the RSPB, warned us that we must keep up the momentum of delivery even after leaving the EU. But for all of this great work to be possible, we rely upon open data sets. Rob Collins, Head of Policy & Science at the Rivers Trust, stressed the importance of data in his blog and Chris Gerrard, Climate Change and Biodiversity Manager, at Anglian Water, demonstrated his commitment to serving customers through protecting the environment. This joint working comes at a crucial moment, as this year we experienced one of the driest summers in living memory, telling us all that serious planning and mitigation is needed for the future.

Link, together with Sustain and Socialist Environment and Resources Association (SERA), hosted an event at the Labour party conference this month to debate with party members the importance of caring about food, farming and the countryside. Martin Spray, Chief Executive at Wildfowl & Wetland Trust discusses in his blog.

We celebrated news that the global moratorium on Whaling is being maintained. Ahead of the IWC meeting in early September, Bernard Unti, Senior Policy Advisor for Humane Society International, examined the issues around subsistence whaling. Louisa Casson, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace UK stressed the global responsibility of protecting our global oceans and the Marine group must pushed UK government to lead the way in making our fisheries by-catch free.

We welcome blogs from Link members and others. To contribute a blog for the Link website, please contact Emma Adler, Link’s Communications Manager.

In September, Link published the following press releases, reports and consultation responses:

Follow Link on LinkedIn and Twitter

Link has a presence on the professional networking site LinkedIn, which includes updates on our blogs, news alerts and job opportunities. Take a look at our page and follow us to keep up to date with our work.

The Link team also regularly tweets news and comment on Twitter, as does Link’s Director, Elaine King.

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