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PM candidates urged to pledge their commitment to nature and climate leadership.

13 July 2022

Twenty-six environment charities, including the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Plantlife and The Rivers Trust are urging all candidates for Conservative Party Leader to commit to three key nature and climate pledges.[1]

The call comes after concerns, including from Conservative politicians, that contenders may backtrack from previous manifesto commitments such as net zero and other environmental promises. It is made as the first round of voting in the leadership contest begins today (13 July).

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:

“The Conservative leadership race should be a race to the top for environmental action. The last Conservative manifesto - on which all the candidates stood - promised the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth. Those election pledges are not forgotten and nature remains a public priority.

“We are calling on the candidates to honour the Conservatives’ electoral promise on conservation. The last leader made big commitments to restore nature and climate. Now, we look to the candidates for the action to halt nature’s decline and end environmental inequality.”

The environment is consistently reported as being in the top four concerns for voters[2] and the UK is among the worst ten percent of countries in the world for nature loss, having already lost half of our biodiversity and with 15% of UK wildlife currently at risk of extinction. Questions have also been raised over whether the UK’s climate action will come even close to Net Zero targets set to help minimise global warming to 1.5°C and climate impacts such as flooding, decreased food security, and devastating wildfires such as those already seen in Australia and California.

With the nature and climate crises having such huge implications for food production, the economy, health, public safety, and the future of treasured species and landscapes, environment experts say the candidates need to make their positions clear on this key issue. To back the policies needed to turn round the destruction of our nature and climate, the charities have written to all the candidates asking them to commit to:

A net zero, nature-positive economy by 2050, enhancing natural climate solutions to make land use and agriculture ‘net negative’ in greenhouse gas emissions this decade.

Stop the decline of nature in England by 2030, protecting at least 30% of land and sea for nature, and accelerating the transition to nature-friendly farming: public money for public goods, a bigger overall budget, and high environment and welfare standards.

End environmental inequality, with equitable access for everyone to a healthy natural environment by 2030 as a core levelling up mission: clean air, thriving ecosystems, access to greenspace, and unpolluted rivers.


Notes to Editors:

1. Organisations backing the calls include: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, A Rocha UK, Bat Conservation Trust, Born Free, British Canoeing, British Ecological Society, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, League Against Cruel Sports, The National Forum for Biological Reporting, Campaign for National Parks, Naturewatch Foundation, Open Spaces Society, ORCA, People’s Trust For Endangered Species, Plantlife, Ramblers, Rare Breeds Survival Trust, Rewilding Britain, The Rivers Trust, RSPB, Surfers Against Sewage. The Wildlife Trusts, and WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust), Wildlife and Countryside Link.

2. See YouGov’s opinion tracker on the most important issues facing the country. The economy and health are ranked first and second in importance respectively, followed by the environment and immigration.

Factfile of key UK environmental decline statistics:

- 25% of UK mammals risk extinction

- Many common bird populations have declined, like the starling (71%) & tree sparrow (95%)

- Our pollinators are in decline - with populations of half our bees, 2/3 of our moths & 71% of butterflies in long-term decline

- Our soils are being eroded at 10x the rate they are created

- Damage to our biggest carbon store - peatlands - means they now emit 3.5% of our CO2

- 90% of wetlands have been destroyed in England

- None of England's rivers & lakes are classed as being in good health

- Last year saw 370,000 discharges (2.7m hours) of untreated sewage into English waters

- Important fish stocks are declining - Scottish cod alone has fallen 68% in 20 years

- 92% of the UK's sea grass carbon-capturing 'rainforests' have disappeared

- Thousands of whales, seals, dolphins, porpoises & seabirds die in fishing nets in the UK each year

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