Open letter to General Election 2019 Candidates

Read this open letter to General Election Candidates 2019 by our CEO Georgia Stokes.

Obviously in a short 6 week election period we were not expecting all the candidates to have time to respond but of the candidates in all 5 constituencies 29% of candidates responded.

Dear General Election Candidate,

During this general election you will be asked to clarify your position on a range of issues that affect people now and in the future. No issue is more important than tackling the linked emergencies facing our climate and our natural environment. In recent months we have seen multiple international and UK scientific reports setting out the details of the challenge, the causes and the actions we must all take.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that we have now barely 11 years to take far reaching and fundamental action to tackle climate change in order to keep global warming below 2 degrees. In reality, this means taking urgent policy action within 18 months to ensure we are finally on the right trajectory to meet this essential target.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that one million species are at risk of extinction due to 5 human activities: land use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive species. The report stated:

“We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

Bearded tit

Bearded Tit (Panurus biarmi) amongst the reedbeds - Danny Green

The UK State of Nature 2019 report showed that biodiversity in the UK continues to decline. The UK is now one of the most nature-depleted places on earth. This is not about conservation but restoration of our natural environment and on a very large scale.

We all depend on the natural environment. It is in all of our interests to work together to tackle these crises that are affecting nature, and all of us. It is important that we, as voters, are clear about your approach to the key environmental issues that face us. Please could you set out your environmental priorities, should you be elected, and your approach to the key issues below that are affecting Somerset and your potential constituents right now.

  1. Do you support an ambitious Environment Act with legally binding targets to restore nature including a powerful, independent environmental watchdog and a statutory requirement to develop and implement a Nature Recovery Network to protect and connect places for wildlife? How will you ensure this is delivered?
  2. How will you ensure that Local Wildlife Sites continue to be protected in legislation and planning, and work with priority landscapes to prioritise biodiversity improvements?
  3. How will you introduce an Agriculture Bill that incentivises nature friendly and sustainable farming? How will you ensure that reform of agriculture subsidies drives nature’s recovery and meets climate targets while growing the local food we all need?
  4. What will you do to prepare Somerset to achieve better adaptation to climate change, and will you prioritise scientifically proven natural solutions? (ie permanent wet grassland is resilient to flooding and drought).
  5. Can you set out your plans to end the unscientific badger cull and invest in non-lethal, scientifically based methods for tackling bovine TB in cattle and wildlife? Will you ensure the government invests in improving TB testing in cattle, finding a usable vaccine for cattle, and working with farmers to improve biosecurity on farms with effective movement controls for cattle across the country? We understand the serious impact on farmers of having TB in their cattle, and also recognise that badgers are not the main cause of transmission of bovine TB. The issue is polarising the county at a time when we all need to come together for protection of all our wildlife and landscapes.
  6. How will you enable Local Planning Authorities to take decisions on developments in their own areas ending the presumption that a refusal for a planning application will result in a successful appeal by developers?
  7. Will you seek to restore the pre-austerity level of funding to Natural England and the Environment Agency to allow them to effectively fulfil their functions?
  8. How will you work with Somerset Local Authorities, businesses, communities and environmental organisations to achieve our shared ambition of becoming a net carbon zero county by 2030? With this issue in mind, how will you ensure the funding is available to take this fundamental work forward?
  9. Will you support the introduction of a legally binding pesticide reduction target to reverse the dramatic decline in insects that has the potential to cause the collapse of entire ecosystems and dramatically impact human wellbeing? How will you ensure this is implemented?
Starling murmurations

Starling murmurations - Chris Chappell

Somerset Wildlife Trust is a membership organisation with over 20,000 members. We work every day to protect and improve the fabulous natural landscapes of Somerset and restore the species that call these landscapes their home. We work with communities, landowners, and farmers to find ways to protect our county. We look forward to hearing your plans and priorities for these important issues for Somerset.

Yours faithfully,

Georgia Stokes