Draft environment laws 'don't go far enough'

Meadow pipit © David Kilbey

The Wildlife Trusts call for major improvements to draft Environment Bill to put nature into recovery

The draft Environment Bill published yesterday by the Government does not go far enough to tackle the serious environmental challenges we face or provide legal certainty for the future of our natural world, say The Wildlife Trusts. And nor does the accompanying policy note.

The Bill and policy note fall short in a number of ways:

  1. The proposed green watchdog is too weak.  Much more is needed if it is to bear any comparison to the environmental enforcement powers currently held by the European Commission and Court.  To do this the watchdog would need to be more independent and able to hold the whole Government to account, including through having powers to issue fines if the Government fails to implement environmental legislation properly.
     
  2. The Policy Note misses out nature recovery networks.  We are disappointed that it fails to propose key measures needed to secure nature’s recovery; not least requiring the production of nature recovery network maps and compliance with these. (See The Wildlife Trusts’ Wilder Britain proposals)

The Government has committed in its manifesto to being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it. Leaving the E.U. and then introducing a weak Environment Bill will not achieve this.  The Wildlife Trusts believe that this Bill, so far, is not good enough.

Nothing can replace the full powers now held by the EU and European Court of Justice that have forced us to clean up our rivers and seas and protect key wildlife sites.  But a really powerful independent watchdog would make a big difference.

Nature Recovery Network illustration

Nature Recovery Network

Too often wildlife has been forced into fewer and smaller pockets of wild space, surrounded on all sides by urban development or intensive agriculture.

We instead need to create connected spaces across our landscape - in our towns and cities, on farmland, and in natural places - to give wildlife a chance to recover and adapt to pressures like climate change.

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A Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust spokesperson said: “We know that our amazing natural environment is what makes our counties so special. However wildlife has been in decline for many years. The time is now to take strong, ambitious action for our environment to make sure that our chalkstream rivers, our heathlands, our ancient woodlands and our Solent – and the wildlife that call them home – are given the chance to recover.

“While we welcome the government’s intentions to leave the environment a better state for the next generation, these proposals don’t go far enough. The majority of the British public want the same or better environmental protections when we leave the EU - so we challenge the government to deliver.

"We’re particularly keen to see joined up spaces for wildlife as part of a Nature Recovery Network in law, so that we can truly start giving nature the space it deserves to recover. It’s also essential that there is a new a truly independent watchdog with the teeth to hold government to account.”

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, added:

“We fought hard to secure this Environment Bill and recognise that Defra has worked hard to produce it, but the stark reality is that other Government Departments have weakened the draft substantially.   

“Wildlife is in freefall and the Government’s proposals for a new Environment Bill fall well short of what is needed to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.

Now Ministers and MPs must improve upon this draft Bill to create a bold visionary piece of legislation proportionate to the vast environmental challenge we face.  Unless they do, we will regret losing still more wildlife and the health of our ecosystems for generations to come. 

Critically, an ambitious Bill would put nature’s recovery on to a statutory footing by mapping out where wildlife must be protected and where habitats must be improved – a Nature Recovery Network on land and at sea.”

Wilder Future team walking into sunset

Let's create a Wilder Future

We’ve reached a point where our natural world is in critical condition and needs our help to put it into recovery.It’s not too late to bring our wildlife back, but we must act now.

Join our campaign for a #WilderFuture and take simple actions for nature’s recovery.

Act now

We need the Environment Bill to give us:

  • Nature Targets: legal targets for nature's recovery that politicians must ultimately achieve and regularly report on progress towards e.g. safer air to breathe in our cities.
     
  • A Nature Recovery Network: a joined-up network of habitats that provide enough space for wildlife to recover and for people to thrive.
     
  • Legislation is needed to drive the creation of Nature Recovery Networks, mapped and delivered locally, to protect and join-up important places for wildlife, to bring nature into every neighbourhood and to ensure everyone, whatever their background, has access to wildlife-rich natural green space