25 year environment plan – a step in the right direction

Whitby Sunrise (c) Charlotte Ellis.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust welcomed the Government’s launch of a 25 year plan for the environment today, but hopes it will be backed by strong legislation and funding.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is delighted that Prime Minister Theresa May has responded to the concerns of the millions of members of conservation organisations across Yorkshire and the UK and especially those of young people.

The decline of wildlife is a national scandal and has ever-increasing negative consequences – from the flooding of Yorkshire’s towns and cities, to air pollution, to the loss of pollinators, such as bees, that are so vital to protecting our food supplies, to the deluge of plastic litter in the oceans. May’s speech gives hope that the Government takes these issues seriously and are now intent on action.

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust particularly welcomes commitments to restore peatlands, as Britain’s largest carbon store and a critical part of the UK Government’s commitment to tackling climate change.

At a glance: summary of targets in the 25 year environment plan

The Trust has spearheaded the Yorkshire Peat Partnership, delivering an extensive programme of works in Yorkshire’s uplands, restoring heavily-degraded peatlands which helps reduce the rate of climate change, improves water quality, reduces the ‘flashiness’ of river catchments and provides fantastic wildlife habitats.

Rob Stoneman, chief executive of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said “All of this commitment is welcome but it must be backed up with action – with funding, the right institutional arrangements and legislation to turn commitments into a better environment rich in wildlife for all the people of Yorkshire.

“Let’s start with some quick and obvious wins. Reinstate the Nature Improvement Area programme that did so much to improve the wildlife of the Humberhead Levels and the Dearne Valley. This needs extending to other parts of Yorkshire.”

The blue-belt of marine protected areas around the UK is fundamental to protecting the rich wildlife of the North Sea and the Trust looks forward to Defra designating the final tranche of protected areas at sea and putting in the correct management measures so that they can help restore our ocean’s wildlife. This is something Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has actively campaigned on for many years and is dedicated to ensuring the Government see it through.

“We have worked for many years to influence the public and organisations to reduce the amount of plastic and other litter going into the North Sea, through long-running beach cleans, projects such as ‘Waves of Waste’ and ‘Fishing for Litter’. These projects have raised awareness of the impacts on wildlife and the environment of plastic litter in our seas.”

The Trust also welcomes a reform of agriculture policy where farmers and land managers are paid by the State only for public benefits such as wildlife conservation and flood prevention.

“As soon as we leave the Common Agricultural Policy in 2019, let’s begin to taper down the basic payment scheme and use the money saved to fund land-managers to store water and protect our towns and cities from flooding; maintain our carbon stores, particularly our peatlands to stop peatland carbon leaking out to the atmosphere and making climate change worse and have a new fund to restore Yorkshire’s wild places – new woodlands, meadows, heathlands, wetlands and coastal marshes.”

The Trust has lobbied Parliament with the launch of its new proposal Applying a new approach to English agricultural policy, showing how subsidies should be used for the public good.

“Whilst the Trust welcomes this plan, if we are to leave our environment in a better state than previous generations, we must turn commitment into action right now; before it’s too late.”

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The Government's 'Green Future': Read the full plan here