Environment and Fisheries Bills published today – an important first step towards wildlife recovery

Hedgehog in autumn leaves by Tom Marshall

But, several crucial improvements are needed to save wildlife, say The Wildlife Trusts.

Today, the Government’s landmark Environment Bill finally returns to Parliament – an important first step towards wildlife recovery. Also published today is the Government’s Fisheries Bill. You can read our response to this here.

With one in seven species in the UK now at risk of extinction and 58% of species in decline[1], The Wildlife Trusts have long called for ambitious new laws to allow nature to recover. Ensuring a healthy natural environment is vital to reversing the massive loss of nature as well as combating climate change and achieving net zero carbon emissions.

The Environment Bill, the first of its kind for over 20 years, will establish a new structure for managing the environment and will aim to strengthen environmental protections to reverse nature’s decline.

Kingfisher

Jon Hawkins

Joan Edwards, Director of Public Affairs for The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“This much needed Bill is a crucial step in ensuring we halt the rapid decline of wildlife and the Government delivers on its pledge to develop the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth.

“We know that nature reserves alone are not enough for wildlife’s recovery."

The natural world is becoming more fragmented and desperately needs reconnecting to create more space for wildlife to recover.

“We’re really pleased that the Environment Bill recognises this by committing to create local nature recovery strategies to support a Nature Recovery Network. By identifying areas which show where action needs to be taken so that nature can recover, we can help provide enough space for wildlife and greatly increase nature’s capacity to tackle climate change.”

In a short film for The Wildlife Trusts, calling for powerful new environmental laws and for a Nature Recovery Network, Sir David Attenborough, president emeritus of The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“A wildlife-rich natural world is vital for our wellbeing and survival. We need wild places to thrive. Yet many of our systems and laws have failed the natural world. We now live in one of the most nature depleted places on the planet. Nature urgently needs our help to recover – and it can be done. By joining up wild places and creating more across the UK we would improve our lives and help nature to flourish - because everything works better when it’s connected.”

As the Environment Bill makes its passage through Parliament, The Wildlife Trusts will be pressing for several improvements, including:

  • commitment to non-regression of environmental law to prevent backsliding on environmental standards after Brexit;
  • A more robust target setting framework in which interim targets are legally binding and contribute progress towards the long-term environmental targets;
  • Greater financial independence and dissuasive and effective remedies for the new Office for Environmental Protection;
  • A duty of direct application in domestic law for environmental principles to maintain their strength;
  • stronger duty to refer to Local Nature Recovery Strategies in making relevant decisions, such as where to create new habitat under the net gain system, to ensure they are truly effective.

References:

[1] State of Nature 2019 Reports https://nbn.org.uk/stateofnature2019/reports/