Government 'must do more for nature' say environmentalists

David Cameron: promises of establishing the 'greenest government ever' have had disappointing results at best.
David Cameron: promises of establishing the 'greenest government ever' have had disappointing results at best.
The government is failing to deliver on a third of its natural environment commitments, despite huge public support for action for nature, wildlife and the countryside.

The government’s performance in protecting our environment has come under scrutiny in Nature Check 2013, a report published today by 41 environmental organisations, under the umbrella of Wildlife and Countryside Link. The proportion of nature commitments on which the government is failing has steadily worsened during its term in office. Areas in which it is falling short include protection of the Green Belt, farm animal welfare, designating the full network of Marine Conservation Zones and reversing wildlife declines.

Nonetheless, some areas show progress, demonstrating that our rulers are capable of providing green leadership. Examples include reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, work on ash dieback, and international work to protect elephants, rhinos and whales. The report urges the government to implement the Common Agricultural Policy so that it delivers as much as possible for wildlife and the countryside. The organisations behind the report include household names like WWF, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, CPRE and RSPCA. All the organisations are urging the government to recognise the value of nature to both the economy and to the people of Britain.

Alongside the report, the organisations have published a ComRes survey of more than 2,000 adults, which has revealed the love people have for the British countryside. Notably, 83 per cent of British adults believe the natural environment should be protected at all costs, while only a quarter think the government is doing enough to protect our landscapes and wildlife.

Speaking on behalf of the 41 organisations, Wildlife and Countryside Links Director, Dr Elaine King, said: “David Cameron promised the greenest government ever. Using its own promises as a yardstick, today’s findings show he’s failed to stick to his plan. Our survey shows that the majority of people want politicians to do more to protect nature and the countryside. The message from the public is clear – they want healthy seas and landscapes providing rich habitats for thriving wildlife. But sadly, most species in this country are in decline.

“We’re told an economy in crisis is a higher priority than nature in crisis. Yet the government is missing a huge opportunity: a healthy environment helps the economy and enhances people’s health and wellbeing. Our wetlands alone provide a home for millions of migrating birds and other wildlife, but they also give us £350 million worth of flood protection a year through storing rainwater that would otherwise run off our roads and fields into our towns. Without wetlands, the cost of resulting flood damage would need to be met by businesses and government, and passed on to the public through higher prices and higher taxes.”
The report rates four of the government’s commitments to the natural environment as green (good progress), with 12 amber (moderate progress) and nine red (failing). Of the commitments which were rated in a similar report a year ago, 20 per cent have got worse and only 10 per cent have improved.

Read Bill Oddie's criticisms of the suppposed 'greenest government ever' in the December issue of Birdwatch, on sale 28 November.
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