Draft Environment Bill published

Thursday 20th December 2018

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Warwickshire Wildlife Trust calls for major improvements to draft Environment Bill to put nature into recovery

The draft Environment Bill published by the Government does not go far enough to tackle the serious environmental challenges we face or provide legal certainty for the future of our natural world, say The Wildlife Trusts. And nor does the accompanying policy note.

The Bill and policy note fall short in a number of ways:

1. The proposed green watchdog is too weak. Much more is needed if it is to bear any comparison to the environmental enforcement powers currently held by the European Commission and Court. To do this the watchdog would need to be more independent and able to hold the whole Government to account, including through having powers to issue fines if the Government fails to implement environmental legislation properly.

2. The Policy Note misses out Nature Recovery Networks. We are disappointed that it fails to propose key measures needed to secure nature’s recovery; not least requiring the production of nature recovery network maps and compliance with these. (See The Wildlife Trusts’ Wilder Britain proposals.)

The Government has committed in its manifesto to being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it. Leaving the E.U. and then introducing a weak Environment Bill will not achieve this. The Wildlife Trusts believe that this Bill, so far, is not good enough.

Nothing can replace the full powers now held by the EU and European Court of Justice that have forced us to clean up our rivers and seas and protect key wildlife sites. But a really powerful independent watchdog would make a big difference.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“We fought hard to secure this Environment Bill and recognise that Defra has worked hard to produce it, but the stark reality is that other Government Departments have weakened the draft substantially. Wildlife is in freefall and the Government’s proposals for a new Environment Bill fall well short of what is needed to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.

Now Ministers and MPs must improve upon this draft Bill to create a bold, visionary piece of legislation proportionate to the vast environmental challenge we face. Unless they do, we will regret losing still more wildlife and the health of our ecosystems for generations to come. Critically, an ambitious Bill would put nature’s recovery on to a statutory footing by mapping out where wildlife must be protected and where habitats must be improved – a Nature Recovery Network on land and at sea.”

We need the Environment Bill to give us:

• Nature Targets: legal targets for nature's recovery that politicians must ultimately achieve and regularly report on progress towards e.g. safer air to breathe in our cities.

• A Nature Recovery Network: a joined-up network of habitats that provide enough space for wildlife to recover and for people to thrive.

o Legislation is needed to drive the creation of Nature Recovery Networks, mapped and delivered locally, to protect and join-up important places for wildlife, to bring nature into every neighbourhood and to ensure everyone, whatever their background, has access to wildlife-rich natural green space.

Ed Green, Chief Executive of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, says:

“The time to act is now. We have the opportunity in Warwickshire, through our local MPs, to play our part in a national groundswell of support for a more ambitious Environment Bill capable of delivering nature’s recovery, and we’re calling on our members and the public for help. MPs want to know what it is you care about. Not only do they want to hear from you, they have a duty to listen - their job is to represent you in Parliament, so be a voice for wildlife and let them know that we need their commitment to a robust Environment Bill.”

The Wildlife Trusts are asking people to meet their MP in person to discuss the need for a strong Environment Act – here. Over a thousand people have contacted MPs nationally.

Read about The Wildlife Trusts’ vision for a Nature Recovery Network here.