The Environment Secretary’s pledge to create more green spaces and enhance biodiversity is not enough

By Simon Richards, founder of Land Studio

Rishi Sunak’s Government has rejected Liz Truss’s deeply misguided opinions on biodiversity enhancements and green energy and instead approved plans for a number of nature reserves to give people access to green spaces and water within a 15 minute walk from their home.

The newly announced Environment Improvement Plan would also see the creation or expansion of 25 national nature reserves, a further 500,000ha of protected landscapes and a fund set up for rare species, including red squirrels and hedgehogs, and the creation and restoration of 30,000 miles of hedgerow a year by 2037.

These pledges are commendable but are they enough? We are starting from a very low base. The 2019 State of Nature report painted a dire picture of biodiversity in Britain. According to the RSPB, over 40 million birds have disappeared from our skies since the 1970’s, The Woodland Trust say over 120,000 miles of hedgerows have been removed.

A task group from the Natural History Museum recently said that “while countries such as Canada and Finland have 89.3 and 88.6% of their biodiversity left intact, the UK only has 50.3% remaining.”

Tony Juniper, the chair of Natural England, has said that we are facing into a series of environmental challenges that are “very serious, pressing, and which are connected to one another”.

He believes that if we are to take effective action then “we will need an ambitious and integrated plan that is geared up to meeting some very challenging targets. It will require efforts across government and across society to translate its intent into action”.

I am not convinced the urgency and seriousness of the situation is being understood. Only last week the Government gave emergency authorisation for the use of bee-harmful pesticides on sugar beet seeds even against the advice of an independent panel of pesticide experts.

The only way to ensure the protection, implementation and enhancement of our green spaces and landscape is through a combination of greater education on the incredible potential and delicate fragility of nature, alongside stronger legislation and powers to restrict the harmful practices that are destroying our habitats and landscapes.

Action is the key word, and proof of action will only be apparent over the coming months and years.


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