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UK leaders urged to save wildlife after terrible European budget deal

Last modified: 08 February 2013

Skylark in song-flight

How many more skylarks will we lose following a terrible budget for wildlife?

Image: Steve Round

A regressive deal for wildlife: that’s how the RSPB has described the European Budget deal, which has seen potentially huge cuts for payments for wildlife-friendly farming.

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Conservation Director. Commenting on the budget outcome, he said: “Wildlife across Europe will pay a heavy price for this terribly regressive deal, and we’re bound to see further declines in some species whose numbers have crashed. Since the 1980s Europe has lost 300 million farmland birds, how many more will we lose over the next seven years?”

The deal struck today cuts the amount of money available for conservation by just over 11 billion Euros. Worse still it allows all member states to raid what little is left in conservation coffers and siphon it off into untargeted subsidies.

Martin Harper added: “This is a bad deal for Europe’s wildlife, providing flexibility for a race to the bottom. But there is hope for the UK, a country which has led the way in investing in wildlife-friendly farming.

Environmental promises

“The Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, and his counterparts in the devolved administrations, now need to take the necessary decisions to make good on their environmental promises. This is nothing less than those 30,000 RSPB supporters who contacted David Cameron this week would expect.

“This means using the flexibility to shift as much funding as possible from direct payments into Rural Development, the bit of the CAP that can really drive more sustainable farming.”

Before the revised negotiation the UK received about £500m for wildlife-friendly farming payments, but a previous study showed that at best this was only half of the sum needed to fund environmental priorities. The need for concerted action to restore farmland wildlife in the UK remains as great as ever. Some typical farmland species, like the skylark, have shown massive declines. Since 1978, the UK has lost over 350 skylarks a day; that’s one every four minutes.

Using powers wisely

In the UK, the RSPB hopes that Owen Paterson – the Environment Secretary – and his colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will show leadership and use their powers wisely to ensure that as much funding as possible will go towards those farmers and land managers who provide the greatest benefits for wildlife and the countryside.  Other EU leaders will certainly need an example to follow.

In excess of 30,000 RSPB supporters lobbied David Cameron to vote for Nature at the European Budget meeting by voting for a favourable outcome for wildlife.

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