Recent government environmental announcements have alarmed a number of nature charities, including the Wildlife Trusts, who are urging the public to take immediate action.
Over the last few days, the government has announced the Retained EU Law Bill – threatening to revoke hundreds of laws that protect wild places and ensure standards for water quality, pollution and the use of pesticides.
New infrastructure plans, as well as investment zones as part of the growth plan, threaten to weaken vital protections for habitats and wildlife.
The government have also launched a ‘review’ of the long-awaited Environmental Land Management schemes – which were meant to reward farmers for restoring nature, preventing pollution from entering rivers and climate-proofing their businesses
The recent lifting of the fracking ban in England has been carried out despite there being no evidence that proves fracking is safe.
The proposals have caused outrage among green charities, politicians of all political persuasion, farmers, campaigners, and members of the public – many of whom feel anxious that the government is not tackling the nature and climate crises with the urgency required.
A recent poll by the Climate Coalition – a group of leading environmental organisations and campaigners – found that only 23% of people felt the government is doing enough to tackle the climate crisis. Polling carried out by Unchecked found that strong regulation is supported by voters – irrespective of which way they voted in the EU referendum.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, says:
“Nature is under attack from a raft of dangerous decisions by government and we know people are furious at the new threats. Vital legal protections for wildlife are at risk, fossil fuel extraction is being favoured over renewables, and the government is going back on plans to reward farmers for managing land in a nature-friendly way.
“The government’s Food Security Report 2021 identified climate change and biodiversity loss as the biggest threats to food production in future – so farming in harmony with nature must be encouraged – yet the government wants deregulation that’ll lead to yet more poo in rivers, less wildlife and land that’s unable to adapt to climate change.
Bennet adds: “We are calling on the public to contact their elected representatives and share just how concerned they are. These actions will affect us all – the communities where we live, our wild places, food security, and our futures. The climate and nature crises pose monumental challenges, and recent proposals by this government will only make things worse.”
The Wildlife Trusts argue that abandoning regulations that protect nature and creating low regulation ‘investment zones’ with few planning restrictions could decimate UK wildlife, which is already suffering steep declines.
Since 1970, more than 40% of species have declined in abundance, with 26% of mammals at risk of disappearing altogether. Every river and lake in England currently fails chemical pollution standards and only 16% are classed in good ecological health compared to 53% on average in the EU.
As things stand, government ambition for nature’s recovery aims to have just 10% more nature in 2042 than 2030 levels – by which time the state of our natural world is expected to have declined even further.
Earlier this year, The Wildlife Trusts wrote to the prime minister expressing serious concern and calling instead for a 20% increase on 2022 levels.
Joan Edwards, director of policy at The Wildlife Trusts, says:
“This is the most destructive set of policies I have seen in over 35 years of working in nature conservation. At a time when nature needs us most, the government is threatening to turn a very bad situation into a complete disaster.
“Pursuing a dangerous agenda of deregulation will push much-loved species such as water voles and hedgehogs to the brink of extinction even faster than we’d feared. We depend on the natural world for everything from clean water to food – this has to be respected.”
Yasmin Dahnoun is assistant editor at The Ecologist.