The election results are in, so what’s next for nature?

, 05 July 2024
The election results are in, so what’s next for nature?

The Labour government has a clear mandate to ‘deliver for nature’ in the runup to 2030 and beyond. They will play a vital role in our country’s ability to successfully restore nature by driving forward meaningful action and putting nature at the heart of decision-making across all government departments. We hope to see a strong stance from day one, not just from the new government but also from the opposition, who must hold the government to account to keep action on track to restore nature by 2030.

Here are five asks we think the new government should prioritise in their first 100 days:

1. Deliver where the last government didn’t

The last government made a number of big commitments for nature but then failed to follow through on their promises, including:

  • A 2022 commitment to ban the sale of peat compost by 2024. Despite promises, no legislation was introduced before the general election to keep that pledge. There is widespread public support for a ban (the government’s public consultation found over 95% of respondents wanted a ban) and a Bill to enact the ban is ready and waiting – it just needs to be introduced into Parliament.

  • Multiple commitments to licence the reintroduction of Beavers in England. Despite a consultation in 2021, the last government failed to set out their proposed approach. Beavers bring huge benefits by recreating lost wetlands that alleviate food risk, reduce the effects of drought, and boost biodiversity.

2. Kick off a review of the Environmental Improvement Plan

Politicians have yet to take sufficient action to halt nature’s decline by the end of the decade, nor have they laid out clear and credible plans for how they would do so.

Last month The Wildlife Trusts supported a judicial review to challenge the UK government’s failure to consider a review of its Environment Improvement Plan, following a highly critical report from its own official nature watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection.

Responsibility will now transfer to the new Labour government. They must move on from a pattern of sporadic and piecemeal policy announcements, which do not add up to a clear plan to reverse nature’s decline and deliver on our international commitments and legally binding targets.

3. Ensure changes to the planning system deliver for nature, climate and people

It’s clear that changes to the planning system are going to be one of the first actions of a new Labour government. With the right approach, the planning system can help us to address the nature and climate crisis, as well as getting Britain building.

We know that nature is vital to us all – studies show damage to the environment is slowing UK growth, undermining prosperity1, and could lead to an estimated 12% reduction in GDP2.

Nature-positive measures should be built into the design of new developments from the start, and tools like Biodiversity Net Gain should be applied to their full potential.

It is totally unnecessary to set nature against the necessary provision of homes and infrastructure.

4. Stop river pollution

Sewage, wastewater and agricultural pollution are suffocating our rivers and the wildlife that depends on them. Pollution impacts every single river, lake, estuary and coastal water in England, and this is an issue that must be urgently resolved.

Environmental regulators must be properly supported to enforce regulations and maintain standards, and to support innovative solutions to water challenges.

The new government should also recognise that nature is part of the solution, with wetlands and river buffers capable of absorbing rainwater that would otherwise overwhelm the sewage system and preventing agricultural pollution from leaching into freshwater habitats. We want to see investment directed towards protected nature sites, chalk streams and upper river reaches.

5. Get the farming transition back on track

The destruction of nature and the impacts of climate change are the biggest threats to food security in the UK. We cannot grow food without healthy soils, clean water and plenty of pollinators. We must work with nature to protect these fundamental resources, and wildlife-friendly farming can also increase farm profits and resilience, reduce costs, and maintain or even improve yields.

To secure the UK’s long term food security, the budget to support wildlife-friendly farming should be increased. Many farmers and land managers have gone to great lengths to support wildlife without being adequately rewarded.

Action to deliver Labour’s promise of a Land Use Framework to consider competing demands on our land should start immediately, to ensure we can protect at least 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030 and ensure food production in the UK adapts in response to climate change.

Sources

1. Final Report - The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

2. Nature degradation could cause a 12% loss to UK GDP | Environmental Change Institute (ox.ac.uk)



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