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The 25 Year Plan for the environment has to succeed

Nature, with all of its infinite wonder, diversity and richness, underpins our society, economy, and human wellbeing. It’s at the heart of what makes life worth living. But our wildlife and ecosystems have been greatly diminished through human actions in the pursuit of other seemingly more important goals and ambitions.

April 2016

However, we now know, more than ever, that we cannot continue on this path and need to find new, innovative and intelligent ways to live alongside nature, and urgently. We need to get much better at recognising the value and importance of the natural environment, including the role it can play in addressing many public policy issues - flooding, water quality, health and wellbeing – and to make better decisions to protect and recover our lost nature, on land and at sea i.e. working with nature not against it.

In England, this is the massive challenge facing the Government, as it develops its 25 year Plan for the Environment – a key commitment in the Conservative Party manifesto. The Environment Secretary, Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP has stated that she wants the best natural environment anywhere. I for one applaud this ambition, which is a great starting place for translating words into action in the form of the Plan.

The Government has started to develop its thinking about the underlying issues that need to be tackled if significant change is to be achieved. In my mind, there are some critical questions that need to be addressed, such as:

  • how can we find more space for nature in our countryside and urban areas?
  • how can we make sure that the ambition and action spelled out in the Plan survives the multiple political cycles that its lifespan covers?
  • how can we better value all of the, often overlooked, things that nature does for us, and use this knowledge to make better decisions that achieve multiple beneficial outcomes for people and nature – such as healthier, happier people and bigger and more joined up natural spaces?
  • how can local communities be empowered, and supported, to seize the opportunities to create more nature rich places?

As members of Wildlife and Countryside Link, we have already provided some initial ideas to the Government about what we believe should underpin the Plan. Over the next few weeks, we will elaborate further on these initial thoughts, through a series of blogs, to help stimulate a discussion about the Plan, what it should contain and what it should help to achieve. We stand ready, and are keen, to help.

In my view, the 25 Year Plan for the Environment is a critical opportunity to tackle the state of our natural environment, if many more generations to come are not to be hugely disadvantaged by living in an environment that has been stripped of its richness. We need to make it count.

Paul Wilkinson

Chair of Link's 25 Year Plan Working Group

Head of Living Landscapes, The Wildlife Trusts

Find me on Twitter at @OriginalWilko

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author’s and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership