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The Time Is Now lobby: A new day for democracy - a new start for nature?

Matt Browne, Advocacy Lead at Wildlife and Countryside Link, marks the first ever virtual lobby of Parliament and highlights the opportunity it presents for nature.

June 2020

‘To lobby’ is a funny old phrase. It appears to date from the early 17th century, when groups wishing to influence MPs waited in the corridors and lobbies of the Palace of Westminster to make their case directly to decision makers. Since then it’s become part of our political lexicon and mass lobbying has evolved with the times: from English Civil War widows carrying the blood-stained shirts of slain husbands to ask for parliamentary pensions, to the presentation of million-signature petitions by chartists campaigning for extension to the franchise in Victorian Britain.

Today that evolution continues with the first ever virtual lobby of Parliament, taking place entirely online. It is fitting that this new chapter in the history of our democracy has nature at its centre.

The Time Is Now lobby will see thousands of people come together online throughout the day to ask their MPs to deliver a green recovery from Covid-19. In hundreds of constituency Zoom meetings, MPs will be asked to commit to investment in climate and nature-friendly infrastructure, and to put nature on the path to recovery at home and abroad.

Link is pleased to be supporting the virtual lobby, and to have helped develop the nature asks being made through it. Those asks build on a key lesson of recent months: that our collective health is intertwined with the health of the natural world.

Nature is suffering, and that means that we will suffer further down the line - from flooding, drought, climate change, soil degradation, air pollution, fish stock collapse, pollinator declines and, as we now know to our cost, new zoonotic diseases. Setting targets to drive nature’s recovery, and investing in shovel ready projects to deliver that recovery, is a prudent strategy to prevent environmental issues from developing into human disasters. In addition to helping us avoid future disasters, such nature recovery work will create jobs in the here and now – especially in the rural and coastal communities close to natural assets - and increase the amount of wild spaces people can access. This increased access will improve health outcomes, with NHS researchers estimating that more green space would potentially save over 1,300 hundred lives a year.

It’s been encouraging to see growing recognition, across the political spectrum, of the ways in which nature recovery can work both as a preventative medicine, and as an economic and social boost. From the Prime Minister speaking of the need for a greener, more resilient recovery in the wake of Covid-19 to the launch of a Labour Party green recovery consultation, on top of detailed environmental proposals published by Liberal Democrat and Green MPs, there is an emerging consensus that nature isn’t some fluffy side issue, but an asset critical to our shared future.

The challenge is to turn this growing recognition into meaningful action to recover nature - including significant and swift investment in nature recovery projects - to get much-needed work underway now. Link has outlined how funding for 300 projects would enhance 200,000ha of priority habitat, plant 4.5 million trees, capture around 3 million tonnes of CO2 and create 10,000 new jobs. To invest in such shovel ready projects, as the Government has shown some early signs of doing, is to sow the seeds of a greener, healthier, more secure future for everyone.

Today’s virtual lobby is a chance to make the case for this new start. The online nature of the lobby illustrates the potential for change; in the space of a few months, we have found new ways to work, to connect with our loved ones, and now to engage in our democracy. Covid-19 has reset the relationship between us and technology – we can seize this moment to also reset the relationship between us and nature.

As we open a new chapter in our democracy we must use it to write a new and better story for the natural world with which, as we now know better than ever before, we share our future.

The Time is Now.

Matt Browne, Advocacy Lead, Wildlife and Countryside Link

Lobby supporters can register to attend the ‘main stage’ part of the virtual lobby here.

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.