Below is a series of three Twitter threads put out by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds: England over the last few days. The organisation is outraged the government is reneging on its promises and putting wildlife at risk. We reproduce them here with their permission
23 September 2022
Make no mistake, we are angry. This Government has today launched an attack on nature. We don’t use the words that follow lightly. We are entering uncharted territory.
As of today, from Cornwall to Cumbria, Norfolk to Nottingham wildlife is facing one of the greatest threats it’s faced in decades. What the Government has proposed in today’s mini-budget on top of yesterday’s announcements potentially tears up the most fundamental legal protections our remaining wildlife has.
If they carry out their plans nowhere will be safe. This map shows legally protected areas in purple and orange (the SACs and SPAs) mapped on to districts, in green, that want investment zones. Places where anything could be built anywhere. And these are just the start.
“Releasing more land” they call it.
And it doesn’t stop there – the new Retained EU Laws Bill could see the end of basic protections known as the Habitat Regulations. Laws that protect our birds and animals, everywhere from forests to our coasts. Where you live, the wildlife and places you love, from the shires to the cities – all under threat from bulldozers, from concrete.
For now, this is focused on England, but the intent is clear for this to extend across the UK. And the real tragedy is this: the utter lack of understanding by ministers that healthy nature underpins a healthy society and a healthy economy. Have they even read their own report?
We cannot let this happen. And now more than ever nature needs your help. We need to make it abundantly clear that we will not stand for this. We are currently planning a mass mobilisation of our members and supporters. More news on this next week. But right now, we have one simple ask: tell your MP how you feel. Impress on them that the Government doesn’t do this in your name.
If ever nature has needed you, it’s now.
25 September 2022
Today we have yet another Government attack on nature. The third in as many days. DEFRA, please say it’s not true that the Government is going to break another promise and scrap the new scheme that supports nature friendly farming? What’s happening? We are hearing that the Government is about to scrap the Environment Land Management Scheme (aka ELMS).
Under this new scheme farmers are paid taxpayers’ money in order to help protect nature. Without this, many farmers would struggle to help wildlife and balance the books. They’ve been receiving this support in a smaller way through similar schemes since the mid-90s, and it’s helped many threatened species recover, such as cirl buntings. Public money for public goods.
This principle was clearly understood as a cornerstone of the post-Brexit approach to agriculture policy – read this from former Tory Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Instead, there are now rumours that the Government will pay farmers simply based on how many acres they own. Which means most of the taxpayer cash just goes to big farms without strings rather than helping nature. If this is true, it tears up the 2019 Tory manifesto commitment (p42) that “in return for funding [farmers] must farm in a way that protects and enhances our natural environment”.
DEFRA were clear last night about farmers producing high quality food. And about investment. And protecting the environment. But the investment is needed to target public money at well-designed schemes.
ELMS is on the way to being such a scheme and we know that many in DEFRA have worked hard to make this work. Why on earth would the Government scrap it? Restoring nature and tackling climate change is critical to maintain food production. The government’s own report found that the loss of nature, and climate change, present the biggest risks to our food security.
Bottom line: Our farmers are some of nature’s greatest champions. But they aren’t rewarded at the till for the work they do for nature. We will never recover threatened species without them and the right schemes.
In the past three days we have seen the threat of tearing up the laws that protect nature, and of trashing planning rules in new “investments zones”. And now this. If it is true, another huge attack on nature. And a crushing blow to all our farmers who know it’s essential to produce both food AND wildlife.
Why not ask DEFRA yourself what’s happening? And your MP?
26 September 2022
Over the past few days, we’ve been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from you. Now, what next – here’s the plan. There’s more to follow. Much more. But the very first thing is to leave all our MPs in absolutely NO doubt as they sit in their party conferences that you care about wildlife, and this is a huge issue. To do this all you need to do is click here on our new e-action, and follow the instructions. Please, please help.
What we are doing, basically, is asking three questions and extending an invitation. Here are the questions:
Q1. Government: will you protect the laws that protect nature? This means keeping the Habitats Regulations in UK law. These protect the very best wildlife sites up and down the country. Read more about these here.
It also means keeping the laws protecting our rivers and beaches from pollution and sewage. And while we are at it let’s make sure protections for nature are not trashed in these proposed new “Investment Zones”.
Q2. Government: will you make sure that in return for taxpayer’s money, farmers are fully supported to farm in a way that protects and enhances the natural environment? This is a 2019 manifesto promise. It means keeping and developing the new Environmental Land Management Scheme that many in DEFRA have worked so hard on. And we know that food security relies on nature’s health. Let’s have an end to this false argument about food vs nature. Without nature, ultimately, there is no food.
Q3. Government: ahead of the global COP15 summit of Convention on Biological Diversity, will you restate unambiguously that your government will deliver “the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth.” As clearly written in your 2019 manifesto (p3)
The legal commitments for nature’s recovery in the Environment Act were a very welcome step. But the Government cannot hope to meet them if the answer to the first two questions is ‘no’.
And finally – will you meet with us Simon Clarke (Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities) and Ranil Jayawardena (Secretary of State for the Environment)?