West Country wildlife charities call on government to put the environment at the heart of economic recovery in 2012
A joint appeal by Avon Wildlife Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust and RSPB
South west wildlife charities have today set out a wish list of ten things the Government could do to give the region’s wildlife a festive boost and support its aspirations to be the "greenest Government ever". They also challenge Government to put the environment at the heart of a sustainable economic recovery for the region.
The list was drawn up following a year of uncertainty for the region’s rich and diverse natural environment.
Dr Simon Cripps, Chief Executive Officer of Dorset Wildlife Trust said: "It’s been a difficult year for wildlife. The Coalition's actions for wildlife have fallen a long way short of their aspirations “to be the greenest government ever”, as described powerfully in the Natural Environment White Paper [Note 1]. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Chancellor’s recent statement that business should not be burdened with “endless social and environmental goals”. [Note 2]
“The Coalition’s own advice that a healthy natural environment is vital to support jobs and development, and, we would add, happiness at a time when it is most needed, is being contradicted by actions and intentions within some parts of government. We want more joined up thinking and better understanding.”
The wildlife charities, who have a combined membership of over 150,000 people in the south west list ten top "festive" presents as:
1. Planning: An amended National Planning Policy Framework [Note 3] for a strong, healthy and just society living within environmental limits and protecting our natural environment.
2. Wildlife law: A U-turn on the current review of wildlife legislation [Note 4], which must be allowed to continue to guide industry, helping it make appropriate investment decisions to look after nature in the most important wildlife sites.
3. Economy: Support for a healthy local economy linked to the south-west’s exceptional natural environment, with an urgent challenge for ‘Local Enterprise Partnerships’ to come together quickly and create ‘nature enterprise zones’.
4. Farming: With negotiations continuing in 2012 on how the EU spends 40% of its budget through the Common Agricultural Policy, the Government must continue to press for the safeguarding of targeted agri-enviromnent schemes (such as Higher Level Stewardship) and the provision of rich choices for farmers that value environmentally friendly farming.
5. Badgers: In urgent action to tackle bovine TB the Government must act on the basis of science rather than political expediency and, instead of passing the buck and most of the cost to farmers with the proposed badger cull, accelerate a programme of improved bio security, badger vaccination and a cattle vaccine.
6. Marine reserves: The Government must fully recognise that the wildlife of our seas is important on a global scale with swift designation and effective management of the long promised comprehensive network of marine protected areas around the south west. [Note 5].
7. Fishing: An end to damaging fishing practices in the south west, through the Common Fisheries Policy, and a shift to fisheries with real environmental stewardship at their heart, with coastal communities coming together to produce high quality, high value fish.
8. People: The Natural Environment White Paper recognises how precious our natural environment is for everyone. From our National Parks to the south west’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to the coast, and our towns and cities we must increase efforts to reunite people with nature.
9. Climate: The Government should provide better incentives for renewable energy developments and set high standards for developers that support the natural environment. A good start would be a review of feed in tariffs that recognises the potential of renewable energy on a local level.
10. Towns and cities: In our towns and cities, we need more, accessible, high quality green space for the health and quality of life of our communities and to restore fast declining urban wildlife including iconic urban species like the house sparrow and the swift.
Tony Richardson, Regional Director for RSPB in the South West said: “It is in the Government’s gift to ensure a better outcome for the natural environment in the South West and throughout the country. We look forward to working with them in 2012 to ensure that our Christmas wish list is a lot shorter next year!
“But we can't do this alone. More than ever we need the voice of the public who speak up for wildlife to make themselves heard - whether that be through contact with their MP, letters to the press or support for environmental charities acting on their behalf.”
“Whether we live in the city or the countryside, natural systems support us. The natural environment becomes degraded when people lose their sense of contact with it. Human health and happiness also suffer. This White Paper aims to strengthen connections between people and nature, to the benefit of both.
As the Government sets about repairing the damage to the economy, we are launching this White Paper to mend the inherited damage in our natural environment. Thousands responded to our recent consultation and told us that they want to safeguard the inheritance of future generations. Valuing nature properly holds the key to a green and growing economy, one which invests in nature not just for us but for our children’s children.” Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
“... we shouldn’t price British business out of the world economy. If we burden them with endless social and environmental goals however worthy in their own right then not only will we not achieve those goals, but the businesses will fail, jobs will be lost, and our country will be poorer. Our planning reforms strike the right balance between protecting our countryside while permitting economic development that creates jobs. But we need to go further to remove the lengthy delays and high costs of the current system, with new time limits on applications and new responsibilities for statutory consultees. And we will make sure that gold plating of EU rules on things like Habitats aren’t placing ridiculous costs on British businesses.” George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.