Sarah Champion

Sarah Champion, Labour candidate for Rotherham answers our questions

In the run up to the General Election we emailed all candidates for the constituency of Rotherham with a series of questions about nature and the environment.

Of all the candidates, only Sarah Champion, the Labour Party candidate and previous sitting MP for the constituency responded. Here is a list of all the candidates for Rotherham constituency:

Dennis Bannan (Yorkshire Party)
Adam Carter (Liberal Democrats)
Sarah Champion (Labour)
Paul Hague (Brexit Party)
Gerri Hickton (Conservative)

Here is the response we received from Sarah Champion:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to your questions about wildlife in our local area. I have always been a supporter of the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, you do brilliant, important work.

The Labour Party has demonstrated our commitment to this issue by publishing ‘A Plan for Nature, a manifesto for the environment.’ This manifesto sets out in detail the current crisis and the comprehensive steps Labour will take to arrest and reverse the decline of our natural environment. I would urge anyone interest in our wildlife and natural environment to look up the manifesto and study the detail of our proposals.

Question one: ecological emergency

To address the ecological emergency, a Labour government will invest nearly £10 billion over the next ten years to restore nature, recovering our islands’ biodiversity and protecting vulnerable habitats and species both on land and in the seas around us.

Labour are committed to restoring our peatlands, salt marshes and grass lands so that our species are able to recover and thrive.

For bird life, we will implement recommendations from the third review of Special Protected Areas, including measures to protect the Little Egret, the reintroduced Osprey, White-tailed Eagle and Red Kite, and non-breeding gulls and raptors in coastal areas.

To arrest the alarming decline in insects, we will reform the food and farming system as unless we change our ways of producing food, we risk insect extinction within decades.

For hedgehogs, we will provide connecting corridors in rural and urban hedgehog habitats.

For red squirrels, we will support conservation projects in the Isle of Wight and Cumbria, and monitor the reintroduction of pine martens in the Forest of Dean and Northern England. We will set aside areas of our enlarged forestry plantations and replanted native woodlands to provide suitable habitats for squirrel and pine martens populations.

For natterjack toads, one of only two species of native toad in the United Kingdom, our Nature Restoration projects in saltmarshes and coastal estuaries will help provide the habitats for more reintroductions.

Question two: legislation

Regarding legislation, a Labour government will introduce an Environment Emergency Act with revised standards for a healthy natural environment. The law will establish duties on public authorities to act for the recovery of nature, underpinned by ambitious targets to drive its restoration.

We will also establish the Office of Environmental Protection as an independent, fully resourced watchdog with transparent governance processes and Parliamentary accountability.

Question three: protection of wild places from development

Regarding the protection of wild places from development, a Labour government will fully integrate environmental considerations into our planning systems and develop better assessment tools to avoid environmental harm and gain biodiversity.

In addition to our intensified efforts to recover forests, peatbogs and saltmarshes, Labour will – at least – maintain all the habitat protection and nature restoration efforts in the other vulnerable habitats found within existing UK Areas of Special Conservation Interest (ASCIs) included in the Bern Convention’s Emerald Network of protected areas. We will also consider strengthening the management requirements for all existing protected sites and assess the case for establishing new sites to protect more vulnerable habitats.

Question four: farming and nature’s recovery

Agriculture is a key part of the solution to both nature restoration and climate change.

We will reform farm payments to reward the provision of public goods and promote environmentally sustainable land management systems, with more organic matter in soils, the restoration of natural environments, protections to habitats and wildlife and the provision of affordable, healthy, sustainably sourced food for everyone.

Farmers will also need support to adapt and improve agricultural practises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and manage the usage of fertilisers and pesticides differently, to the benefit of environmental quality in soils and water sources.

Question five: climate change and carbon emissions

The climate and environment emergency we face is the biggest challenge facing the future of our country and of our planet. The next Labour government will lead the world in fighting it, with a plan to drive up living standards by transforming our economy into one low in carbon, rich in good jobs, radically fairer and more democratic.

Labour will kick-start a Green Industrial Revolution that will create one million jobs in the UK to transform our industry, energy, transport, agriculture and our buildings, while restoring nature. Our Green New Deal aims to achieve the substantial majority of our emissions reductions by 2030 in a way that is evidence-based, just and that delivers an economy that serves the interests of the many, not the few.

This is backed by a £250 billion Green Transformation Fund to fund the transition to dedicated to renewable and low-carbon energy and transport, biodiversity and environmental restoration. A Labour government will deliver nearly 90% of electricity and 50% of heat from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2030. Funding will also be available to support the shift towards sustainable, pollution-free transport systems, including accessible public transport, rail electrification and low or ultra-low emission road vehicles.

Question six: flooding

My constituency of Rotherham and surrounding areas were badly affected by the floods last month. A Labour government will take strong and decisive action to mitigate the risk of floods in future.

Labour will consult on new planning rules to stop developers building inappropriate housing in high-risk areas such as flood plains. We will instruct the Environment Agency to take a more robust approach to halting planned development where there is serious risk of flooding. We will produce a new national design guide for building housing in areas at risk of flooding, and work with house builders and councils to ensure it is implemented.

Labour will provide an extra £5.6 billion in funding to improve the standard of flood defences and respond to the increased risk of flooding, prioritising areas at risk in North West England, Yorkshire and the East Midlands that have been neglected by Conservative investments. This will increase capital spending to the amount that the Environment Agency estimates is needed to defend against the increased risk of flooding caused by global heating and will begin the upgrade of flood defences to a 0.5 per cent standard, in line with recommendations from the National Infrastructure Commission. We will require account to be taken of the wider flooding impacts on local communities, not only the planned developments.

Question seven: fracking

A Labour government will immediately and permanently ban fracking. We will expand distributed and community energy as an alternative.

Thank you once again for allowing me to respond to your questions. I sincerely believe protecting and restoring our natural environment is one of the most important issues on the ballot paper in this election and it is Labour who will deliver on the urgent and radical policies we need.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Champion.