The UK government has signalled an unprecedented attack on nature, announcing its intention to scrap laws and rules that protect our precious natural landscape. In our view, if carried out, these changes would undermine the UK’s climate and biodiversity commitments. ARocha UK joins with other nature charities across the UK in expressing our opposition to the proposals. We urge the government to think again for the sake of the UK’s nature and people, and the UK’s global reputation for environmental leadership.
What has the government proposed?
This September the UK government announced plans for environmental deregulation which threatens already vulnerable nature in the UK in three major ways.
First, on 22 September, the government set out a plan to review critical legislation covering Habitat Protections which safeguard our rare and vulnerable habitats and wildlife, and also protected areas such as Special Sites of Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Weakening this legislation would increase pollution in our air, rivers and soil with dire consequences for our natural landscape, wildlife, and human wellbeing.
Secondly, on 23 September, plans were revealed to create 38 new ‘Investment Zones’ – areas which would be exempt from current planning legislation and which could include financial incentives for councils to agree to take part, pushing local governments to take part or risk losing critical services. These proposals could spell out the destruction of natural spaces with little to no restriction.
Finally, there have been indications that the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) could be abandoned in favour of a new single farm payment system. ELMS was only recently introduced, following the UK’s departure from the EU, with the promise that it would improve on the much-criticised EU agriculture policy’s impact on the environment. It provided initiatives for farmers and land managers to restore nature and biodiversity on their land and use their land to absorb carbon and work towards achieving net zero. Good land management will be critical to combating the climate and biodiversity crises, as well as long term food security. Removing incentives to use farmland well for nature while also producing food, is a grave step in the wrong direction.
These proposals are within a context of the UK being one of the most nature depleted parts of Europe. Half of British butterfly species and a quarter of UK mammal species are threatened with extinction. Merely 3% of land and 4% of sea is protected for nature in the UK. According to the RSPB, 40% of UK wildlife is in decline. Without concerted effort by government and other agencies, there is no possibility the UK will achieve the global target, to which it has committed, of recovering 30% of land for nature by 2030.
This proposed overhaul of environmental legislation is short sighted and in the long term would result in further biodiversity loss and a landscape considerably less resilient to climate change in the UK. This would not only affect nature but people too, through everything from increased flood risk to reduced soil quality affecting food prices. In the lead up to the UN summits, COP27 (on climate) in November and COP15 (on biodiversity) in December, A Rocha UK is deeply concerned at this abandonment of environmental leadership by the UK government at a time when the world – people and nature – urgently needs rich country governments to move much further faster to resolve the linked crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
We are privileged to live in a democracy. We recommend to all our supporters that now is the time to use our right to make our elected representatives aware of our views. Do write to your MP, raising concerns about this direct threat to nature and wildlife in your area and nationally, and ask them to oppose the removal of these key environmental protections.
A Rocha UK has signed an open letter to the PM, along with 78 other environmental, heritage and animal welfare organisations in the LINK network, urging the government to take a step back from destroying key environmental protections, the destruction of nature that would result.. Read the full letter here.