Liz Truss’ Government has not started well. Not only have they deepened the cost of living crisis, uniting campaigners from Trade Unions and pressure groups in the Enough is Enough movement, but they have also upset much more conservative, conservation and wildlife groups who have got together to fight what they have called the War on Nature.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds protect habitats and saves species. But the Governments’ new policies have made them angry. They have 1.2 million members. That’s more than all the political parties put together.
They say “The new UK Government has launched an unprecedented attack on nature and the laws that protect it. We need to defend our vulnerable and vital wild places, now.” Already over 104,000 supporters have contacted their MP.
This September, the Government launched a three-pronged attack on nature.
First, they set out details of plans to amend or scrap crucial environmental laws. These include the Habitat Regulations which protect some of our most vulnerable wildlife and green places. They also defend our clean water, clean air, clean beaches and rivers.
Then the Government announced further plans to create at least 38 ‘Investment Zones’ in England which will trash planning rules – meaning housing and commercial developments could be incentivised to damage nature with little or no restriction. The Government also wants to deliver these Investment Zones across Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Thirdly the Government is set to scrap a vital scheme that would have supported our farmers and landowners to enhance nature, create space for rare species and habitats, and use the land to absorb carbon. This is vital for preserving the ecosystems that support life, fundamental to our long-term food security. Many farmers want to protect nature but they aren’t paid for the work they do for it. We won’t recover threatened species without them.
One of these actions would be a disaster. Taken together, in quick succession, with no debate or scrutiny, is an attack on nature.
The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet. Our remaining wildlife is struggling – with over 40% of our species in decline. Globally, we’re about to commit to 30% of the world being looked after for nature by 2030. But actions speak louder than words. These plans will be a huge step in the wrong direction.
The environment isn’t an optional extra we can think about later – it is what our lives, our very survival, depend on.
The government have responded to the RSPB’s concerns by calling them a “marketing strategy”. Derek Thomas, the Conservative MP for St Ives, accused the bird charity of spreading “untrue allegations” in order to boost its mailing lists.
But it is not just the RSPB that is upset. The National Trust, one of the most conservative (with a little c) organisations in the country, is also fuming! They have nearly 6 million members!
They write “Speaking up for nature is particularly important at a time when the Government is moving towards an expansion of fossil fuel extraction, instead of prioritising a rapid shift to renewables and a drive towards energy efficiency. And over the last week, the National Trust, like many other conservation charities, has been speaking out against the UK Government’s growth plans which could threaten vital protections for nature – our very life support system – just when we need it most.”
In a joint statement, Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust, Beccy Speight, Chief Executive Officer at RSPB and Tanya Steele, Chief Executive of WWF UK, said: ‘This government, elected on their greenest ever manifesto, is now contemplating breaking its promises on vital protections for the UK’s nature, risking catastrophic consequences. From abandoning fundamental legal protections for wildlife to failing farmers committed to sustainable agriculture, this would be an attack on nature at the worst possible time.
But that’s not all! The Wildlife Trusts are also speaking out against the war on nature. They say we “have significant concerns about the impact these Investment Zone sites will have.”
These zones could see the loss of nationally and internationally protected wildlife sites. Applicants may be able to develop on National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and Green Belt.
Pursuing unsustainable development on some of our most important sites for nature must not be tolerated. We must not allow the wilful devastation of our natural world.
Government should be focused on restoring and expanding wild places for nature, climate and future generations – but instead, it appears intent on destruction.
We should also consider the lifting of the ban on fracking, the failure of the water companies to stop sewage polluting our rivers and seas and illegal levels of air pollution in our cities. The Tories are increasing drilling for gas in the North Sea, increasing our impact on climate breakdown.
The RSPB, National Trust and Wildlife Trusts are urging members to contact their MPs to insist they protect nature. Please visit their websites and support their campaigns. As well as U turning on the 45p tax rate, Liz Truss must see sense and reverse the war on nature. Otherwise, she faces the wrath of middle England!