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50+ nature charities and celebs tell PM: deliver on promises to protect nature, in law!

28 February 2021

  • Major new campaign to protect nature launches today backed by 50+ nature organisations, plus celebrities and political figures
  • PM called on to lead the way globally on commitments to nature by putting nature promises into law ahead of hosting global talks
  • Public urged to sign petition to show support for legally binding nature protections - aiming for 250,000 signatures
  • Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum are backing the calls, including Hilary Benn MP, Roger Gale MP, Lord Krebs, Caroline Lucas MP, and Kerry McCarthy MP

More than 50 nature organisations, and well-known names including Steve Backshall, Chris Packham, and Stanley Johnson are supporting a new ‘State of Nature’ campaign launching today.[1] They are calling for the Prime Minister’s commitments to reverse nature’s decline by 2030 to be backed-up in law. This is vital to ensure promises to protect nature are actually delivered and that struggling species like hedgehogs, turtle doves, puffins, dolphins, bees, butterflies, newts, bats, rare orchids and cornflowers can thrive again .

In an open letter to the Prime Minister today the coalition has urged him to close the commitment gap between the UK’s action abroad and domestic action on nature’s decline. Despite the PM calling on world leaders, ahead of global climate and nature talks, to turn around wildlife’s decline by 2030, there is no commitment within the Government’s ‘landmark’ Environment Bill to do the same. In fact current targets in the Bill wouldn’t guarantee action for nature in England until almost 2038, nearly a decade later than the PM is asking others to commit to.[2] Experts are warning that the Environment Bill will fail to halt the decline of wildlife and the environment unless it includes a legally-binding nature recovery target.

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB said: “The situation is incredibly urgent. Nature in the UK is in freefall – we are losing species and the habitat they need every year. We also know that a restored and healthy natural world underpins a resilient economy, something we need as we recover from a disease generated through our appalling treatment of the natural world. Actions not just words are now required.

“Ten years ago, a promise was made to ‘improve the natural world within a generation’ but the world has missed almost all its pledges. It’s clear that promises are simply not enough. The Environment Bill must commit us to tacking the nature crisis on our own doorstep, with stronger and binding legal targets to ensure we keep and deliver on our promises and a new Office for Environmental Protection with the teeth to help make sure that happens. In ten years’ time we have to be able to look back at this moment and know it was the point when we genuinely committed to revive our world.”

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts said: “In the last fifty years we’ve witnessed the gradual disappearance of wildlife in our country. Hedgehogs, cuckoos, red squirrels and turtle doves are now a rare sight – and birdsong is quieter every year. We know that around half of UK wildlife has decreased since 1970, with 1 in 7 species now at risk of extinction.

“Almost a decade ago the Government promised to reverse this decline and leave the environment in a better state, but action has been painfully slow. We need to see an ambitious target written into law – one that will provide the impetus for nature’s recovery by 2030. This is the only way of guaranteeing real action across Government to bring back abundance – humming, buzzing and singing – to the natural world.”

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “Dr Richard Benwell, CEO, Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “It’s been 20 years since world leaders first agreed a treaty to halt the destruction of nature. 20 years in which thousands of species have vanished from the Earth, millions of hectares of pristine habitats have been lost forever, and billions of people’s lives have been affected by nature’s destruction.

“What will make the next decade different? Governments need to back up their rhetoric with results, and that means strong laws, clear accountability and investment on a different scale. First and foremost, we need a powerful target to improve the state of nature in the Environment Bill to ensure the Government plays its part in protecting our natural world.”

Chris Packham CBE, TV presenter, photographer and naturalist, said: “Last year, the world spectacularly failed to meet any of our United Nations targets to protect nature. That was a disaster for wildlife, for the health of the planet, and for our own health and wellbeing.

“The ambition was laudable, but the reality was deplorable – and that comes down to inaction by individual countries. Now we have a chance to turn things round, with action to finally stop the destruction of wildlife by 2030. But the only way to guarantee the action our natural world needs is to put our promise to stop nature’s decline into law.”

Naturalist and explorer, Steve Backshall MBE, said: “Nature has become even more important to us all during the COVID crisis. Walks in parks and the countryside, hearing birdsong and the sound of the ocean have become a lifeline for our wellbeing. But we need to look after nature too.

“So many times we’ve heard politicians say they will protect our natural world and help it to recover, but time after time we’ve seen the destruction of nature continue. We need the Prime Minister to step up and put his promises to protect nature into law to guarantee that this time it is different, that this time we will turn the tide for wildlife by 2030 at the latest.”

Quotes from the National Trust, Woodland Trust, Rewilding Britain, Plantlife, and other nature groups can be found here

Nature is in trouble in the UK. The most recent State of Nature report showed once again the poor health of our natural world, with 41% of our wildlife in long-term decline. One in four British mammal species face extinction, including the much-loved hedgehog, red squirrels, water voles, the hazel dormouse and grey long-eared bat. We’ve lost nearly all of our wildflower meadows (97%) and official figures show that none of our rivers and lakes are now classed as healthy.

Last year countries across the world spectacularly failed to meet 10-year targets to improve our natural world, including the UK. The targets set at this year’s global nature talks will be the third time world leaders have set 10-year targets to turn things around for nature. That’s why it is so important that the ‘State of Nature’ target, and regulations to achieve it, are added into law so that the current, and future, Government can be held to account and kept on track to helping nature recover.

The Environment Bill, which has been delayed in Parliament for a third time, is expected to begin progress again through the House of Lords in May. Nature experts are urging the PM to support a ‘State of Nature Amendment’ to the Environment Bill (introduced by Hilary Benn MP)[3] which would: set a legally binding target to halt and begin to reverse the decline in the state of nature in England by 2030 and regulations for how the target will be met. A legally binding target means the Government must achieve the target or could face legal action.

This is a once in a generation chance to get legally binding protections for nature. No such opportunity in domestic law is likely to open in the next decade and there is an unprecedented moment of global influence for the UK on nature and climate issues, as hosts of COP26 and the G7.

Putting a crucial State of Nature protection into the Environment Bill will ensure warm words on delivering a better environment for the next generation, are backed up in law for England.[4] It will also give the UK credibility as world leaders as we head into talks to set global targets to reverse nature’s decline.

Nature charities are asking the public to show their support for nature and help persuade the Prime Minister to put this vital wildlife protection into law by signing their petition for a better ‘State of Nature’.


Notes to Editors:

  1. Other well-known names supporting the State of Nature campaign: Dr Mya-Rose Craig, George Monbiot, Feargal Sharkey, Peter Egan, Iolo Williams, Megan McCubbin, Dara McAnulty, David Lindo, Simon Barnes, Michael McCarthy, Mark Cocker, Stephen Moss, Peter Marren, Mary Colwell, Henny Beaumont, Mark Carwardine, Roy Dennis, Nicola Davies, Hugh Warwick, Helen Pilcher, Benedict Macdonald, Gill Lewis, Jules Howard, Dr Helen Scales, and Robert Macfarlane.

    Organisations supporting the campaign: National Trust, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, The Woodland Trust, WWF, Greenpeace UK, Black2Nature, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), The Rivers Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, League Against Cruel Sports, SOS-UK, RSPCA, ARC Trust, the Mammal Society, Keep Britain Tidy, Campaign for National Parks, Flood Plain Meadows Partnership, the River Restoration Centre, People's Trust for Endangered Species, Black Environment Network, Surfers Against Sewage, Four Paws UK, Rewilding Britain, The Badger Trust, The British Mountaineering Council, Marine Conservation Society, Wild Justice, John Muir Trust, Forest Stewardship Council UK, Green Alliance, Wildlife Gardening Forum, Open Spaces Society, CPRE The Countryside Charity, Institute of Fisheries Management, A Rocha UK, Born Free Foundation, ORCA, ClientEarth, The Angling Trust, Ramblers GB, Bat Conservation Trust, The Zoological Society of London, WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust), Salmon & Trout Conservation, Rare Breeds Survival Trust, Buglife, Plantlife, Earthwatch Europe, Humane Society International UK, Shark Trust, Freshwater Habitats Trust, Naturewatch Foundation, ALERC, CHEM Trust, UK Youth for Nature, Blue Ventures, Sustainable Food Trust, Blue Marine Foundation, The Aldersgate Group, Nature Friendly Farming Network, Save the Children, Wildlife & Countryside Link
  2. Under Clause 3(9), targets under the bill must be laid as a Statutory Instrument in Parliament by 31 October 2022. There is a further period before the targets come into force. Under clause 1(6), a target date must be no less than 15 years after the date on which the target is initially set. It is possible to set interim targets under the bill, but they are non-statutory and non-binding. This means that the earliest deadline for a legally-binding target under the bill is almost 2038.
  3. The amendment was tabled by Hilary Benn in the Commons, with cross-party support including from Conservative backbenchers. However the amendment did not pass. The next opportunity is for this to be supported in the Lords or for the Government to introduce the amendment themselves.
  4. There are opportunities to bring in a legally binding nature target in England through a State of Nature amendment to the Environment Bill. There are similar opportunities to bring in such a target through the Environment Bill and Biodiversity Strategy in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, legally binding targets should be part of the next Scottish Biodiversity Strategy in order to meet the Scottish Government’s Statement of Intent on Biodiversity. In Wales, it’s hoped that targets will be adopted to complement the Nature Recovery Action Plan for Wales.

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