Today conservationists, academics, politicians, farmers and businesses from across Europe will gather in Brussels to discuss the crucial laws that protect nature – the Nature Directives.
This political process directly affects us here Wales. Many of the special places we know and love are protected by these European laws, such as our major estuaries, the Severn, the Dyfi and the Dee, which are hugely important feeding stations for our migratory birds; the wild uplands of northern Wales in which our Lake Vyrnwy reserve is a crown jewel; and the wonderful sea bird islands like Ramsey and Grassholm, to name but a few. RSPB’s Chief Executive, Mike Clarke, will be speaking as part of the debate in Brussels, and along with other RSPB colleagues and fellow conservationists, they will be standing up for these vital European laws that protect our wildlife. You can have a read of Mike Clarke's blog about the Nature Directives here.
The great fear is that the process of examining the Nature Directives will lead to the re-opening, merging or weakening of these laws as part of the European Commission’s drive for ‘better regulation’. If you’ve been following and supporting our Defend Nature campaign you may be familiar with the story so far.
At a time when nature is in crisis, it makes no sense to risk undermining the protection and management of iconic Welsh sites such as Snowdonia, the Pembrokeshire Coast or Llyn Peninsula which represent unique wildlife hotspots in Wales. These special places put our nation on the map and are key factors underpinning our multi billion pound tourist economy here in Wales. Without continued protection under the Nature Directives, we would not only lose the wildlife so many of us hold dear but an important part of our culture and heritage.
Thankfully the value of our special places in Wales, and across Europe, and the role that the Directives play in keeping them special, has been recognised in a report that will be presented at the meeting in Brussels. Produced by experts at the request of the European Commission, its findings clearly prove that there is no reason for the merging or weakening of the Directives. The laws that protect nature are fit for purpose. Martin Harper, our Director of Conservation explains more in his blog here. The people of Europe have also demonstrated unprecedented support to protect nature and have asked for stronger implementation. Between April and July 2015 a record number of people from across the EU took part in a public consultation to back the Nature Directives. An astounding half a million people responded to show their support, with an inspiring 100,000 voices from the UK alone.
We are calling on the UK Government, who represent Wales and the other devolved nations in Europe, to back the Nature Directives. We want the UK to add its political voice to a growing support for the Directives expressed by environment ministers from countries including France, Germany, Spain and Italy and a number of MEPs, who have publicly declared that they believe the laws are fit for purpose and do not need to be modified.
At a time when Wales is trying to develop and deliver ground breaking and potentially world leading sustainable development through the Well being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 and a new Environment Bill, the effectiveness and certainty of the well-established Nature Directives is crucial. If fully implemented these laws will help us deliver a brighter future for people, wildlife and business.
The Directives underpin all our efforts to sustain and restore a biodiverse natural environment. They protect the very best places for nature and provide a robust decision making framework to help integrate and manage the very many demands us humans place on our environment – whether for food, materials, energy and development land. The ambitions of the people of Wales to live more sustainably will be in jeopardy if the Nature Directives succumb to revision.
Today, I am attending a meeting with Welsh Government officials to agree our national biodiversity strategy, the Nature Recovery Plan for Wales. A strong plan is essential if we hope to save nature in Wales and hit our biodiversity targets by 2020. The Directives are an essential part of this and I will be urging Welsh Government to do all they can to influence the UK Government to stand up for nature. You can do your bit too – head to www.rspb.org.uk/DefendNature to ask the UK Government to defend the Nature Directives.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the RSPB Pin Badge boxes - little blue boxes with a picture of a robin. We spread them right across Wales, from Holyhead to Newport, to get the message of saving nature right across Wales. For the price of a pint of milk you can be the proud owner of over 50 current badge designs from kingfishers to killer whales.
Although small, these pin badges do more for conservation than simply allowing people to show their valuable support for the RSPB. The money generated from the badges is an impressive amount. Last year, across the whole of the UK, we raised £500,000 from our pin badges alone. This money covers aspects of our work that we can’t traditionally obtain funding for; whether it’s for creating homes for sparrows on our reserves, providing bug hotels for children to make at events or even paying the running costs of our visitor toilet facilities! Without doubt, the RSPB wouldn’t be able to achieve half as much as it does without the money from the sale of our pin badges.Pin Box minder volunteer, Christine Matthews, explains what it’s like to be part of the pin badge family:
“From my childhood in the 1940s nature has always featured in my life. Lives were very simple then, each season in turn bringing delights. From early spring flowers to decorate the village church at Easter, through to harvest and Christmas, the countryside provided generous bounties. In my 70s, I have a limiting chronic condition, but the little work I do for RSPB reassures me that I can still make a contribution to the world's beauty. It is good to meet new people and I do enjoy counting the cash!
“I've only to look at the birds on our feeders to know how worthwhile it all is. And this weekend a little frog has made his home in our barrel fishpond where he sits catching insects while just above butterflies and bees are feeding on nectar from the buddleia. Isn't life good?” We are always looking for fresh locations to display our badge boxes and also for new volunteers to join our pin badge family. So, if you have a suggestion of where we can display these important badges or if you would like to have a round of boxes to sell yourself, please get in touch. The money collected from looking after the boxes makes a significant difference to wildlife in Wales and all those £1s work together to make sure we can continue to provide a home for nature. Anyone is welcome to volunteer and we’re particularly looking for volunteers in Llandudno & Blaenau Ffestiniog. Please visit http://bit.ly/1GMEyXF for more information. Amy Robinson, Fundraising Officer, RSPB Cymru
RSPB Cymru is leading an exciting cross sector partnership including an SME (G24 Power Ltd) and corporate business (St. David’s Centre) along with City of Cardiff Council, Cardiff Story Museum and Prince’s Trust. The aim of our project, Discover The Diff, is to imaginatively bring nature’s soul into Cardiff to benefit schools, local communities, businesses and tourists; in fact, people of all ages.
Discover The Diff has just been short-listed for a public vote to decide who will become the Kew Gardens Grow Wild Flagship for Wales; however, we need your vote to make it happen! You can find out more by watching our inspirational video on the voting website at http://bit.ly/1ZgMlTR
The project presents many opportunities for businesses of all shapes and sizes to participate and mutually benefit, plus other sectors, from: helping us to connect people of all ages, especially children, with nature and promoting a better environment to supporting Prince’s Trust volunteers and other young people to gain new skills and confidence and ensuring a more sustainable planet.
For example, St. David’s Centre want to be seen as more than the biggest lump of concrete in Cardiff and to continue to support the community and their tenants through green initiatives and worthy causes. G24 Power Ltd., on the other hand, is providing 50 solar-powered i-beacons to complement a nature-based app, to be designed by young people, which will provide location-specific content when you pass within 3-25m of a credit card sized i-beacon device.
The DNA of our project, however, is to creatively reveal and promote the remarkable story of nature in Cardiff and the positive difference it makes to our lives. The challenge to the business community, therefore, is to stimulate a win-win by helping us create a truly green city – another USP for Cardiff - where all can benefit e.g. time in nature is proven to be a healer and can save ourselves, the NHS and employers money by enhancing well-being, alleviating stress and reducing sick days. We are grateful that Admiral Group plc, Arup and Jessops Europe Ltd. have also supported the project and voting campaign. This demonstrates their ‘responsible business practice’ by assisting the community, contributing to enhancing biodiversity and being captivated by how we are already engaging the public (e.g. the nature-based artwork, linked to #RWC2015, on the Millennium Stadium Boardwalk). Some of these organisations and others want to go further and, if we win the public vote, have indicated a variety of support for our vision which includes a city of roof and rain gardens.
Every tweet using #DiscoverTheDiff will have the chance of a winning a photography course worth £119, kindly donated by Jessops. The bottom-line is that if you feel like Hugh James (who tweeted their support for nature in Cardiff) or quality of life is important to you, please encourage your colleagues, family and friends to vote! This is your investment in Cardiff and nature. Thank you!You can make our vision for an outstanding green city a reality, help to create a world richer in nature and benefit all, by making a difference and voting on line at http://bit.ly/1ZgMlTR using a tablet, smartphone or PC or by a free & quick phone call (0808 228 7202), from a mobile or landline.
By Phil BurkhardBid Manager, RSPB Cymru