The Environment Bill

Ben Hall/2020VISION

Yesterday's long-awaited publication of the Environment Bill is welcome but Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is concerned that the Bill must not be delayed further if we are to tackle the serious environmental challenges we face. Cross-party support is needed to trigger nature’s recovery.

The recent State of Nature Report revealed that one in seven species in the UK are at risk of extinction and 58% of species are in decline. Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, as part of The Wildlife Trusts, has long-called for ambitious new laws to allow nature to recover and we are delighted to see that the new Environment Bill will include legally-binding targets for biodiversity.

Warwickshire is now among the least wooded counties in the UK, which as a country is one of the least wooded in Europe. Action is needed to protect Warwickshire's precious woodlands and other crucial landscapes across the country.

Dr Sue Young, Head of Land Use Planning and Ecological Networks for The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“We’re really pleased to see a commitment to creating local nature recovery strategies for the whole of England to support a Nature Recovery Network. It’s very positive to hear that these will identify opportunity areas which show where action needs to be taken so that nature can recover.

“However, we are disappointed that major national infrastructure projects will not be subject to net gain – this means that the new legal requirement to make developers actively improve nature will not apply to the most damaging schemes. While we welcome the clauses strengthening the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act – saying all public bodies must have regard to conservation and enhancement of biodiversity – we believe that this should also apply to national government when they decide on the planning of national infrastructure projects such as HS2.

“Additionally, there have been few guarantees on the independence, resourcing or the strong enforcement powers of the new watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection. This must change if the Government’s proposals are to effectively ensure the protection of the natural environment and meet the ambition needed to turn nature’s recovery from an aspiration to a reality.”

Watch this short film for The Wildlife Trusts, where Sir David Attenborough, President Emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, calls for powerful new environmental laws and explains the important role of Nature Recovery Networks.

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Why a Nature Recovery Network?

For many years we’ve known that nature reserves alone are not enough for wildlife’s recovery.  Too often we’ve seen wildlife forced into fewer and smaller pockets of wild space, surrounded by urban development or intensive agriculture.  This reduces nature’s resilience to climate change. 

Sir John Lawton, who led a Government review of England’s wildlife sites in 2010, said: 

“There is compelling evidence that they are generally too small and too isolated. We need more space for nature.”

To allow nature to recover, we need to reconnect the fragmented sites that remain – stitching back together Britain’s tattered natural fabric of wild land and creating more space for wildlife.

Here in Warwickshire we support farmers to manage their land with nature in mind and create a more sustainable approach to agriculture.  Our Tame Valley Wetlands and Dunsmore Living Landscape schemes have been supporting land managers to restore hedgerows, plant trees, create wetlands and re-naturalise rivers.  Meanwhile, the Arden Farm Wildlife Network helps farmers share best practice on incorporating wildlife management into regular farming practices and our partnership with Severn Trent helps farmers in drinking water catchments to reduce their impact on rivers and streams. These projects help wildlife to live beyond the borders of our nature reserves, contributing to more, bigger, better, joined up Living Landscapes.

A Nature Recovery Network would act as a strategic spatial planning framework to map, plan and deliver what nature needs to recover, allowing targeted delivery and investment in nature’s recovery and for translating national objectives into real change on the ground.  Aligning funds such as Environmental Land Management payments and “net gain” contributions will provide value for money and allow businesses to have confidence in where and how to invest for long term environmental gain.

Joan Edwards, Director of Public Affairs for The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“The need to reverse nature’s decline is more urgent than ever. Nature and the wild places it depends on are in crisis – on land and at sea – and people are crying out for decisive action. This Environment Bill is a critical opportunity to tackle the environment emergency and should be the highest priority for all political parties. 

“We’re pleased the Government has recognised the scale of the challenge by including legally binding targets and measures to support a Nature Recovery Network in the Bill. This network will create a joined-up network of habitats everywhere, not just isolated spaces, to provide enough space for wildlife to recover and to bring nature back before it’s too late.

“We welcome the requirement to set up local nature recovery strategies throughout England – these will include a statement of biodiversity priorities and a spatial approach to mapping out nature’s recovery.

“The bill contains a major omission – there is no provision for ‘non-regression’ which means that existing environmental standards could be weakened.”

Nature Recovery Network map

Nature Recovery Network map