Today Greener UK have sent a strong message to UK governments on the need to act now to protect, restore and enhance nature. The coalition of 13 major environmental organisations, including the National Trust, is calling for the UK to show international leadership, commit to ambitious new laws and ensure world-class independent governance to keep nature’s protection and restoration on track.
We know that nature is struggling. And its a depressing picture. We are depleting soils, generating mountains of plastic and food waste, changing our climate, making the air in our cities dangerous to breathe and polluting our oceans. Once familiar animals and plants are vanishing from our gardens and countryside. Yet we have hope.
We know how to reverse these problems and we know that a high quality environment is fundamental to the health of our society and our economy.
Here at the National Trust, we’ve pledged to play our part in nature’s restoration through our own plans to restore a healthy, beautiful natural environment across our places and, through working with partners, beyond our own boundaries. We’re also working with others, through Greener UK, Wildlife and Countryside Link, Wales Environment Link and Nature Matters NI to share our experiences and amplify our voices to ensure nature’s needs are heard.
Today’s briefing from Greener UK is a wake up call that with the majority of our environmental legislation coming from the European Union, we don’t have the luxury of time. The clock is ticking towards the day we leave, which will be a pivotal moment for the environment. Westminster and the devolved governments recognise that new institutions will be required to avoid gaps in environmental protection after Brexit and hold those in power to account on their environmental performance.
In brief, the Coalition is calling for:
Domestic action to inspire international leadership: Even under current protections, nature has been declining, and visionary international leadership is needed. Countries across the world will be coming together in 2020 for a series of crucial summits on planetary challenges relating to biodiversity, oceans, sustainable development and climate. As a world leader, the UK should inject new confidence and ideas into the international arena at this decisive time. But to lead with credibility, the work must start at home with not only ambitious plans, but action – including ambitious new legislation.
Action across borders: Environmental processes are blind to borders. Our health and shared natural world can only be protected if governments co-operate, and this applies within the UK as well as internationally. Environmental policy is largely a devolved matter in the UK, and, as we exit the EU, our policies will no longer be under the umbrella of EU-wide laws and standards. A joined-up approach should be agreed and supported by the UK’s four governments, to ensure that there isn’t a race to the bottom in standards between the four nations.
Ambitious new laws: New laws should build on the strong foundations of the full body of existing environmental law and result in:
1. Ambitious and measurable goals for nature’s recovery and a healthy environment.
2. Strong environmental principles to underpin fair and far-sighted decision making.
3. Independent institutions to uphold environmental law, champion citizens’ rights and prevent the roll-back of existing environmental protections.
A Westminster Environment Act will be an important part of this, as will relevant legislation in the devolved legislatures.
With these building blocks, we can lay firm foundations for a greener future. Failure to act risks a loss of environmental protection and a new era of uncertainty. But, if done right, we can demonstrate that we are environmental leaders on the world stage. And we can look forward to green cities, clean industry, farming and forestry that enriches wildlife, fishing in thriving seas, and a fair future where everyone can benefit from a richer natural world.
Together, we can secure nature’s recovery and improve our environment for future generations.
This blog is adapted from this fuller briefing, written by Amy Mount and Paul McNamee at Green Alliance, on behalf of the Greener UK coalition.