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Wildlife and Countryside Link News

Welcome to Link’s news - a roundup of what happened in the last month. For updates from our working groups, please go to the policy hub. If you would like to submit news items for our monthly e-bulletin, please contact Ellie Ward. To subscribe please enter your email here.

May 2024

Over 170 organisations are coming together to back a demonstration to protest the poor state of nature in the UK – march with us in London on 22nd June!

With new polling showing that 71% of people in the UK believe that not enough is being done to protect the environment for future generations, and data revealing ongoing declines in species abundance, the demonstration calls on all political parties to ‘Restore Nature Now’. The demonstration will make five specific policy asks, inspired by the recent Nature 2030 campaign, with politicians being urged to deliver:

  • A pay rise for nature - the nature and climate-friendly farming budget doubled.
  • Make polluters pay - new rules to make polluters contribute to nature and climate recovery.
  • More space for nature - to expand and improve protected areas, and ensure public land and National Parks contribute more to recovery.
  • A right to a healthy environment - an Environmental Rights Bill, which would drive better decisions for nature, improve public health and access to high-quality nature.
  • Fair and effective climate action - increasing home energy efficiency, supporting active travel and public transport, and replacing polluting fossil fuels with affordable renewables.

This is the scale of ambition required if the next Parliament is to turn the tide for the environment and get on track to achieving critical nature and climate targets.

Full details of the family-friendly, peaceful demonstration taking place in exactly one month’s time, and how you can be get involved, can be found on the Restore Nature Now website.

    Environmental Policy News

    MPs call for ambitious UK National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan

    Last week MPs urged the Government to set a global precedent for successful delivery of the environmental targets agreed at COP15 (in December 2022 the meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, known as COP15, agreed a set of targets to halt and reverse the loss of nature by 2030). Parties to COP15 are now required to publish National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) before the end of this year, setting out how they will contribute at a national level to the achievement of these targets. With the UK NBSAP is expected to be published very soon, the topic came up at two debates in Westminster Hall, one on the World Species Congress led by Sarah Champion MP on 14.05.25 and one on biodiversity loss led by Caroline Lucas MP on 15.05.24.

    At both debates, MPs from a range of parties urged the Government to ensure that the UK NBSAP is robust and effective, highlighting that the UK is not currently on track for successful target achievement. Link will continue to work with parliamentarians and others to press for a Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan worthy of the title, which enumerates the policy and funding obstacles to the UK achieving the targets and commits to specific regulatory, legislative and financial interventions to overcome those obstacles. Without such a plan, the UK will not play its part in avoiding the target failures that have dogged previous COP agreements.

      Warning on spread of invasive species

      A new Link report has warned that recent wet weather risks more invasive non-native species becoming established in the UK, to the detriment of both the enviroment and the economy. The ‘Stemming the flood’ report warns that the last 18 months of excessive rainfall (linked to ongoing climate change) creates good conditions for the spread of non-native plants and animals, which can outcompete vulnerable native species, hasten their decline and increase extinction risks. Invasives that stand to benefit from the wet weather include species well known to the public, such as property-damaging Japanese knotweed. A number of media outlets have also highlighted recent increases in Asian hornet sightings, another species whose spread is thought to be enabled by climate change.

      In the face of this climate threat, Link is calling for a package of policy measures from the Government, including:

      • Increased funding for the Invasive Species Inspectorate, set up on a trial basis in 2021, to make the unit permanent and expand its efforts to prevent new invasive species from becoming established.
      • Reforms to speed up the process of listing invasive species as being of concern, to enable faster response times.
      • The creation of a publicly available evidence base for all potential invasive species, kept up to date with climate change modelling, to allow for early preventative work against future threats.

      Live exports ban passes into law

      This month has been a good one for animal welfare, with the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Act receiving Royal Assent on 20th May. The Act prohibits the live export of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses for slaughter or fattening abroad, preventing the extreme stress (sometimes to the point of death) that such transport can cause to animals. The ban has been a long time coming, with campaigners including RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming working for decades to secure an end to live exports. Despite a 2019 Manifesto commitment, legislation introduced to Parliament in 2021 to ban live exports, the Kept Animals Bill, was paused then formally dropped, raising concerns that the current Parliament would pass without a ban being agreed.

      Animal welfare organisations and the public made it clear that such an outcome would be unacceptable, and the Government listened, introducing and swiftly progressing the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Act. Thanks to strong support for an accelerated timetable and to cross-party backing, the Act went from the introduction to Royal Assent in just over six months. To celebrate, campaigners lit up the white cliffs of Dover with a thank you message and committed to redouble efforts to secure further bans in other countries. A number of other Government commitments to improve the lives of animals, contained in the 2021 Action Plan for Animal Welfare, remain undelivered.

      Bulletin Board

      Link blogs you may have missed:

      If the UK wants to solve our plastic waste problems, we must limit production
      Christina Dixon, Ocean Campaign Leader at the Environmental Investigation Agency, writes that the UK Government must match vital leadership on the international stage with greater ambition on domestic plastics policies.

      Ultra-Processed Britain: time for a political response

      Rob Percival, Head of Food Policy at the Soil Association, sets out the case for action to address the health, environmental and animal welfare consequences of growing dependence on ultra-processed food.

      Invasive American Mink and the Plight of Britain’s Water Voles

      Emily Sabin, Water Vole Officer at People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) explores the success of the Waterlife Recovery Trust’s first three years of mink eradication, bringing hope that a century of destruction caused by mink can be brought to an end.

      National Lottery's Climate Action Fund open for applications
      The National Lottery is looking to fund ambitious projects that will link climate action to the everyday lives and interests of local communities. For more details, and to apply, visit the Climate Action Fund website.

      Nature Recovery Leadership Programmes

      Common Purpose is running leadership programmes in the north of England and Scotland, intended to bring together emerging leaders from different disciplines, communities, and backgrounds who share a common ambition: to restore and regenerate nature. See here for further details.

      Forestry placement scheme

      Forestry England's Shadow Volunteer scheme, designed to give people practical experience of forestry work, will be open for applications from 01.06.24 to 07.07.24. See here for further details

      Sector job vacancies:
      A list of job opportunities across the Link network can be found here, including roles with CPRE Kent and the League Against Cruel Sports.

      Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 83 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. You can learn more about Link’s policy work here.

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      The Wildlife and Countryside Link team

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