Campaigning for nature
Our environment deserves the best protection
In last year’s annual review, we reported that we’d established the Greener UK coalition with 12 other leading environmental groups to raise the profile of wildlife with decision-makers. This year, as we continue to negotiate our future relationship with the EU, our work in this coalition has continued.
The first piece of related legislation, the EU Withdrawal Bill, was introduced in the House of Commons in July 2017. The RSPB, and our partners in Greener UK, encouraged our supporters to contact their MPs and ask them to make sure that this Bill did not weaken the laws protecting our environment.
One of the biggest risks is around how the law will be monitored and enforced. Currently, this role is carried out by the European Court of Justice and the European Commission but this won’t continue after we leave the EU. When it was introduced, the EU Withdrawal Bill did nothing to establish a replacement "watchdog".
What lies ahead for our countryside?
We are pleased to have had some success. Before being passed, the Bill was amended in several key places, most significantly on the watchdog issue. Defra also launched a consultation on what a new body could look like in England. There is no final decision, but the RSPB will continue to push for a world-leading environmental watchdog.
We have also been working with Greener UK on the future of food and farming in the UK. For years the RSPB has called for reform; a difficult proposition when it was determined by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. However, UK countries will now be able to set their own policies.
The RSPB wants farmers to be rewarded for protecting nature rather than just being paid for owning land. To further this goal, we helped nearly 6,000 supporters to respond to Defra’s consultation on future policy. The Westminster Agriculture Bill is due to be published before the end of 2018.
In January 2018, the UK Government launched its 25 Year Environment Plan for England. We welcomed the acknowledgement that we need to make a generation-long commitment to saving nature, and were pleased that the plan met some of the tests we set out before its launch. However, more is needed: chiefly an ambitious new Environment Act, and a body of legislation surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU that puts nature recovery at the heart of our future.
In 2020, the UK will attend the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity conference to play a role in setting new global targets for nature’s recovery. If the UK takes the right domestic action now, it can be a global leader in nature conservation at that conference.
Fighting the good fight
We have been busy with casework again this year, fighting development on three fronts: housing at Lodge Hill in Kent, the extension of the M4 in Wales, and plans for a golf course at Coul Links in Scotland. Any development on these protected sites would be devastating for protected species and would set a dangerous precedent – that planning consent can be sought and given, regardless of what protection a site has.