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Prime Minister - do more for nature!

The Ecologist

19th November 2013

A coalition of 41 UK environment groups warns that the Government is failing to deliver nearly a third of its natural environment commitments, despite huge public support for action for nature, wildlife and the countryside.

Areas in which the Government it is falling short include protection of the Green Belt, farm animal welfare, designating the full network of Marine Conservation Zones and reversing wildlife declines.

 

The Government's performance in protecting our environment has come under scrutiny in Nature Check 2013, a report published today by 41 environmental organisations, under the umbrella of Wildlife and Countryside Link.

The proportion of nature commitments on which the Government is failing has steadily worsened during its term in office. Areas in which it is falling short include protection of the Green Belt, farm animal welfare, designating the full network of Marine Conservation Zones and reversing wildlife declines.

Nonetheless, some areas show progress, demonstrating that the Government is capable of providing green leadership. Examples include reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, work on ash dieback, and international work to protect elephants, rhinos and whales. The report urges the Government to implement the Common Agricultural Policy so that it delivers as much as possible for wildlife and the countryside.

The organisations behind the report include household names like WWF, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, CPRE and the RSPCA. All the organisations are urging the Government to recognise the value of nature to both the economy and to the people of Britain.

Alongside the report, the organisations have published a ComRes survey of more than 2,000 adults, which has revealed the love people have for the British countryside. Notably, 83% of British adults believe the natural environment should be protected at all costs, while only a quarter think the Government is doing enough to protect our landscapes and wildlife.

Speaking on behalf of the 41 organisations, Wildlife and Countryside Link's Director, Dr Elaine King, said:

"David Cameron promised the greenest Government ever. Using the Government's own promises as a yardstick, today's findings show he's failed to stick to his plan. Our survey shows that the majority of people want politicians to do more to protect nature and the countryside. The message from the public is clear - they want healthy seas and landscapes providing rich habitats for thriving wildlife. But sadly, most species in this country are in decline.

"We're told an economy in crisis is a higher priority than nature in crisis. Yet the Government is missing a huge opportunity - a healthy environment helps the economy and enhances people's health and wellbeing.

"Our wetlands alone provide a home for millions of migrating birds and other wildlife, but they also give us £350 million worth of flood protection a year through storing rainwater that would otherwise run off our roads and fields into our towns. Without wetlands, the cost of resulting flood damage would need to be met by businesses and Government and passed on to the public through higher prices and higher taxes."

The report rates four of the Government's commitments to the natural environment as green (good progress), with 12 amber (moderate progress) and nine red (failing). Of the commitments which were rated in a similar report a year ago, 20% have got worse and only 10% have improved.

Wildlife and Countryside Link's ComRes survey, published today, shows the personal value of the environment to people in Britain, alongside their view of the Government's performance. Findings include that 91% of people agree we should improve the condition of the natural environment for future generations, and 85% agree the natural environment boosts their quality of life.

However only 21% agree the current Government is the "greenest Government ever" and only 28% agree the Government is taking the right steps to leave the natural environment in a better condition for future generations.

Speaking on the BBC today Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the charges made in the reports were "unfair" and represented only "opinion" not fact. He insisted that the Government would "leave the environment better than it found it".

The report Nature Check 2013 and the ComRes Countryside Survey, both published on 19th November 2013, are available online.

 

 

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