Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust calls for major improvements to draft Environment Bill to put nature into recovery

The draft Environment Bill and accompanying policy note published yesterday by the Government do not go far enough to tackle the serious environmental challenges we face or provide legal certainty for the future of our natural world, says Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust.

We need the Environment Bill to give us:

  • A Powerful Independent Watchdog: 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 strong watchdog would make a big difference.
  • 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.

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 EU and then introducing a weak Environment Bill will not achieve this. Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust believes that this Bill, so far, is not good enough.

The Bill and policy note released yesterday falls 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)

Liz Ballard, Chief Executive of Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said:

“It is very disappointing to see the proposals in the Government’s draft Environment Bill have been significantly weakened, threatening the great opportunity of this Bill to ensure nature’s recovery.

“Our local wildlife and special places for nature in Sheffield and Rotherham require much more robust protection. The Government’s proposals in this draft Bill fall well short of delivering the vital improvements our already fragile natural world so urgently needs.

“We are calling on Ministers and MPs to rise to this once-in-a-lifetime environmental challenge and show much greater ambition in delivering the major improvements we are calling for in this draft Bill. I am greatly concerned that unless they do, we will continue to see our wildlife and habitats decline for many years to come.

“We need a Bill that enshrines a tough green watchdog with the authority to take action against the Government if it breaks the rules, and which requires local authorities to map out where wildlife needs protection and habitats need improvement – a Nature Recovery Network.

“We are asking people in Sheffield and Rotherham to contact their MP and tell them how important this Bill is and ask them to call for these major improvements we are asking for – a powerful green watchdog, targets and a Nature Recovery Network enshrined in law.”

Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust is asking people to meet their MP in person to discuss the need for a strong Environment Act. For more information, visit www.wildsheffield.com/wilderfuture

Over a thousand people in the UK have already contacted their MPs through The Wildlife Trusts’ campaign on this issue.

Read about The Wildlife Trusts’ vision for a Nature Recovery Network at www.wildlifetrusts.org/nature-recovery-network