Nature's Heroes - Blog

Nature's Heroes

Nature's Heroes
Welcome to the Nature's Heroes group. Shout, inspire, chat or share - we don’t mind how you do it but please help us to create a world richer in wildlife by encouraging others to take small steps for nature.

Nature's Heroes - Blog

News and updates on our campaigning work and the exploits some of our top 'Nature's Heroes' from Steven (Head of Campaigns), Steph and Kim (Campaigns Officers).
  • Let’s keep the pressure on for an environmental watchdog with real teeth

    Christopher McAteer, RSPB's nature recovery campaigner in Northern Ireland

     

    Christopher McAteer, our nature recovery campaigner in Northern Ireland, gives us an update on the progress each of the four nations of the UK has made since we asked you to call on your politicians to work together earlier this year.

     

    Back in February many of you got involved in our campaign action to tell elected representatives to address the glaring governance gap the UK will be facing post-Brexit. With your incredible support we reached government ministers and party leaders in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England, demonstrating that the public is firmly behind strong environmental governance.

    Since then we have seen the Westminster Government launch proposals for a new watchdog to enforce environmental laws in England. Far from being the ‘world-leading’ environmental body that we were promised by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, the proposals amount to more of a ‘green poodle’ than the green watchdog we were hoping for. If you live in England, please take action to call for better.

     

    We have seen some encouraging signs too

    Westminster

    As consideration continues at Westminster of the EU Withdrawal Bill, the amendment on environmental principles and governance proposed by Sir Oliver Letwin, and supported by the Government, was passed by the Commons. A number of aspects of this Bill are helpful including:

    • The requirement for a draft Bill to be published within 6 months of the EU (Withdrawal) Act being passed
    • The inclusion of a minimum set of environmental principles in primary legislation
    • Provisions for a new environmental body to take enforcement action when there may be a breach of environmental law.

    This important amendment is cause for hope and it is down to the campaigning of people like you that the Government has taken it forward. So while Brexit is awesomely complex and constantly shifting, we can see that an impact can be made by getting behind campaigns.

    Wales
    In Wales the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning, and Rural Affairs had committed to fixing the governance gap and enshrining EU principles in Welsh law at the ‘first opportunity’. We know that Welsh Government are hoping to work on governance issues in Wales over the next few months, but we will continue to work with them to make sure their plans are robust.

    While this is promising, we are concerned that the Welsh Government is relying on some form of transition period if we leave the EU in a ‘no deal’ scenario. This is seriously risky as we may not have a transition period and will therefore have no governance arrangements in place on exit day.

    Scotland
    The Scottish Government Roundtable on Environment and Climate Change has published a key report, which sets out various options for tackling the environmental governance gap and ensuring that nature continues to be strongly protected regardless of the outcome of Brexit. We hope that this will form the basis of the Scottish Government’s consultation on this topic, which is due to come out later this year.

    On this issue Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Land Reform, and Climate Change Roseanna Cunningham said in a recent blog "It is unfortunate that the Scottish Government, and a number of Scottish stakeholders, were not fully engaged by the UK Government in the development of the proposals set out in their recently published consultation so I will take care not to repeat this mistake. We are ready to co-operate with the UK Government and other devolved administrations, both to ensure continuity of EU law and to seek to agree common approaches across the four administrations in the UK where this is in the best interests of Scotland’s environment and people."

    Northern Ireland
    Well over a year after the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed, there is still no government in Northern Ireland. With no signs of talks resuming before the autumn, this looks set to continue well into 2018 and possibly beyond. The dangers of political uncertainty in Northern Ireland so close to exit day – which is potentially as soon as March 2019 – cannot be understated. The region is in total limbo and being left behind the other three countries of the UK.

    We have been advocating with party leaders and senior civil servants in Northern Ireland, as well as Northern Ireland Office ministers, to push for better collaboration with their counterparts across the UK. We believe that any new environmental watchdog should be co-owned and co-designed by all four countries and have a strong presence in all regions.

     

    Let's keep the pressure on

    rasian jay Garrulus glandarius, adult perched in tree with crest raised, Regent's Park, London, November. Credit: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

    While there is much to be optimistic about, we are still far away from a ‘green Brexit’. There is a lot of room for improvement in what Westminster and the devolved governments have been proposing and we would like to see assurances that future environmental governance has fully independent oversight to effectively hold our governments to account.

    To do nothing will risk widespread lowering of environmental standards. That might be a risk some of our politicians are willing to take, but as campaigners and members of this society, we need to show them that’s not good enough.

    So, if you live in England, don’t forget to make your voice heard and demand the UK Government significantly strengthen their proposals. And if you live in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland and you’ve campaigned with us before, we’ll be in touch with any further opportunities to secure progress.

    Not campaigned with us before but want to get involved? Sign up to be a Campaign Champion, and hear about all our campaigns.

     

  • Westminster Government announces consultation on new Marine Conservation Zones

    Guest blog by Gareth Cunningham, Senior Policy Officer

    *Update: The Wildlife Trust's online action is now live*

    Britain is home to over 8 million seabirds and is one of the most important countries in the world for species such as puffins, razorbills and gannets. Our rich waters provide feeding grounds for seabirds and their hungry chicks, including globally important populations of some species. Back in 2016 we called on the UK Government to protect some of England’s most important areas for seabirds.

    Razorbill. Image courtesy of rspb-images.com

    Today the government has launched a consultation asking the public for their views about protecting a new group of Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) – areas at sea where wildlife is protected from damaging activities. 41 new special places have been chosen for the public to comment on, and a further 12 existing MCZs will have new features added.

    We’re pleased to see the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, wanting to provide greater protection of our marine environment, and expand the UKs Blue belt of Marine Protected Areas. If done correctly, these new sites will be a bold step forwards in not only protecting, but also recovering the marine environment important to so many of the seabirds that live and visit our waters.

    There’s some good news in north-east England where a new site for eider, Berwick to St.Marys MCZ, has been proposed. This area encompasses the Farne Islands and Coquet Island which are the main breeding areas for common eiders on the east coast of England and will provide year round protection for this species.

    Common eider. Image courtesy of rspb-images.com

    We are also pleased to see the proposal to add razorbill as a feature of the existing Cumbria Coast Marine Conservation Zone. It is an area where razorbill numbers are in decline and we hope the proposed designation will be one way of helping reverse this decline.

    However, on the flip side the consultation does not include any additional protection for seabirds in the south west of England, including much needed protection for black-necked grebe.

    We will be reading the consultation in detail and publish our full response to the consultation in due course.

    In the meantime our friends at The Wildlife Trusts have launched an action giving people the chance to have their say and support these new MCZ's. Take part here.

  • Your fantastic impact so far on the future of our countryside

    The UK Government’s consultation on the Future of Food, Farming and the Environment closed on 8th May, having received over 44,000 responses. Almost 6,000 of those responses were your personal views: the responses you sent made up over 10% of the voices clamouring to tell the Westminster Government what should come next. That’s a really big deal.

    You’ve sent a clear message to Westminster’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove and his Department that you really want to see farming that restores nature alongside growing quality food, and you’re not alone. Polling by WWF just a week before the consultation deadline showed that 91% of the UK public want public money for agriculture to be spent supporting farmers to protect nature.

    Nor did your interest and impact stop at Defra’s doors, or even England’s borders. You also wrote to your MPs in your thousands to let them know this matters to you, reaching not only 517 of the MPs in England, which was where most of the UK Government consultation applied, but together getting your message heard across 92% of all constituencies across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

     

    More consultations are on their way

    That reach is important, because over the summer we expect public consultations in both Northern Ireland (with news reports suggesting it could be soon) and Wales too (here’s more about what the consultation should look at from our friends at Food Network Wales). There are vibrant and growing conversations on the future of our food systems, from field to fork, everywhere.

    And, speaking of conversations, last month we invited you to get involved in the Scottish Food Coalition’s ‘Kitchen Table Conversations’. On 23 May, they’ll be launching the report of all the conversations had across Scotland, and calling on the Scottish Government to ‘Bring on the Food Bill’ and launch the long-promised public consultation in Scotland on their proposed law for a better Scottish food system.

    We’re eagerly awaiting these chances to make sure all the relevant decision-makers hear our thoughts and to secure our wildlife and environment’s important place underpinning sustainable food and farming for the future.

     

    These debates and decisions matter wherever we are

    Come the autumn, MPs from across the UK will debate a new Agriculture Bill in the House of Commons. Whilst it won’t set agriculture policy for the whole UK as farming is devolved, it will be the first legislative proposal about our farming and countryside, determine how much funding is available for everyone (and how much of that benefits nature) and be debated and voted on by MPs from all four nations.

    It’s a chance for them to either uphold the positive environmental rhetoric we’ve heard on farming and nature from many of our Governments. Or to seek to weaken and undermine it, keeping our agriculture system as it currently stands, as the biggest driver of wildlife loss across the country, undermining our future ability to produce healthy, nutritious food.

    We know that the Bill needs to be more ambitious than early proposals are suggesting it will be. Our food production depends on a healthy environment, so this law needs to enshrine a thriving environment at the heart of its purpose. We need all decision-makers across the UK to support high ambitions for our shared environment.

     

    A series of steps that could have huge positive impacts

    These consultations on the future of food and farming, and this forthcoming Bill, are just a few of a series of decisions being made across the four nations of the UK that could have the biggest positive impact on nature for generations. Transformative change is within our grasp, and we hope you’ll join us to push for it at every opportunity we get.

    Which is why it’s so important be telling our MPs that the environment matters right now. As nature-lovers we need to keep pushing for high standards on the environment, whatever decisions are being made. We need our MPs to push that message, and through the debating and voting power they hold in Parliament hold the UK Government to account to secure an international reputation for those high standards.

    Thank you for joining us at the start of this journey. Keep an eye on your inbox and campaigns update for news of the next steps and of course, if you’re not already, sign up to be a Campaign Champion.

    In the meantime, why not swing by and see us, or visit a farm near you, and get to know a bit more about how your food is grown? Here's where you'll find us over the next couple of months:

    • Catch up on the highlights of our attendance at the Balmoral Show (16-19 May) on Twitter
    • Visit our demonstration farm, Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire, Lake Vyrnwy Farm in Wales, or a farm near you on Open Farm Sunday (Sunday 10 June)
    • Love the call of the curlew? Find out about award-winning radio and TV producer Mary Colwell’s new book, and how farming could help bring back curlews, at Hay Festival (1st June)
    • Visit our stand at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh to talk all things good food and farming (21-24 June)
    • Come and chat to us on our stand at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd (23-26 July)