Celebrities, charities and the public want radical new commitments for nature from politicians at the 2024 general election

Celebrities including Steve Backshall, Chris Packham, Megan McCubbin and Mya-Rose Craig, alongside a coalition of 80 charities led by Wildlife and Countryside Link, are urging all political parties to ramp up their ambition on environmental issues in the forthcoming general election.

The charities, including the National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and Woodland Trust, are today (18 July 2023) launching the Nature 2030 campaign. The campaign outlines a 5-point plan of landmark measures needed to restore nature by 2030. The coalition is calling on all political parties to get behind these proposals in their general election manifestos to deliver on public appetite for greater environmental ambition and to meet binding targets for nature by 2030 and climate by 2050.

New research has found very low public satisfaction with Government spending and performance on the environment, with high demand for more ambitious environmental commitments from politicians. Key findings include:

Only around 1 in 10 Brits think that the Government is performing well in key environmental areas. Even Conservative voters are underwhelmed by the Government’s performance, with a maximum of 21% thinking the Government is doing well on any key nature issue

  • More than half of Brits (53%) say Government is not doing or spending enough on environmental issues, with Labour and Lib Dem voters feeling particularly strongly that there is a lack of ambition. 73% and 78% of previous Labour and Lib dem voters respectively, say not enough is being done or spent on the environment
  • All five of the headline policies nature experts are proposing are well supported by the public, with support of 68% to 83% for each measure (with only between 4-10% of the public opposing any of the measures). [4] Making big business behave more environmentally responsibly is the measure the public back most strongly, with 83% supporting requiring businesses to pay to clean up the pollution they create (including 57% strongly supporting) and just 5% opposing
  • Support Is very high across voters of all political stripes, but is highest among Lib Dem voters with support of 78-91% for the measures, compared to 71-86% for Labour voters and 63-83% of Conservative voters

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link said: “Next year, the environment will be a major election battleground. Like rivals in an Attenborough film, politicians will be vying to be seen to be greener. But vague promises to be nice to nature simply won’t suffice. Our research shows that people are deeply unhappy with the lack of progress for nature, and that the majority of us want to see the investment and regulation needed to restore our natural world.

“The Nature 2030 campaign, backed by 80 charities, challenges all party leaders to commit to five radical reforms needed to halt the decline of wildlife by 2030 – greener farming, green jobs, polluter levies for big business, more wildlife sites, and environmental rights for all. We’re inviting everyone to sign our open letter to party leaders, so that when the politicians next lock horns, it will be clear to everyone who is really willing to take action for nature.”

Naturalist and explorer Steve Backshall, said:  “Everywhere I’ve travelled nature is on a knife edge. From the river at the bottom of my garden, to the bottom of the ocean, to the furthest reaches of the Amazon, I don’t know how much longer we have to save threatened wildlife and restore nature.

“Two years ago, I was pleased to welcome the Government’s legal target to stop wildlife losses here in England, but since then I’ve seen nothing like the scale of action needed to make it happen, just more political point-scoring. That’s why I’m backing the Nature 2030 campaign, and its five demands to turn things around. Nature isn’t a ‘nice thing to have’, it’s a necessity, and it’s time that all political parties stepped forward to deliver better for nature.”

Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust, said: “With a general election on the horizon, and widespread support for greater environmental action, we need to see all political parties step up their ambition to respond to the nature crisis. The UK remains one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and the evidence is clear that, without major change, there’s simply no prospect of halting the decline of nature by 2030.

 “Poll after poll shows that the public want a better future for our rivers and wildlife, for the changing climate, and for our next generation. And the recent People’s Plan for Nature, published by the first UK-wide citizens’ assembly on the topic, made clear that nature must be at the heart of all decision-making – not treated as an add-on. Political parties have a simple choice ahead of them, commit to action to support nature or face complicity in its collapse.”

The Nature 2030 campaign asks are being launched today at a parliamentary event with leading politicians including speakers The Rt Hon Sir Ed Davey, Natural Environment Minister Trudy Harrison, Alex Sobel MP and Caroline Lucas MP. The 5 landmark commitments nature experts are seeking from political parties are:

  1. A pay rise for nature and farmers: Doubling the nature-friendly farming budget to £6bn pay for ambitious farm improvements and large-scale nature restoration.
  2. Making polluters pay: Putting a Nature Recovery Obligation in law, requiring polluting big businesses to deliver environmental improvement plans, and funding to counter the damage they cause to nature
  3. More space for nature by 2030:  A 30×30 rapid delivery programme restoring protected sites and landscapes and creating a Public Nature Estate to fulfil the promise to protect 30% of the land and sea for nature, and deliver more nature in all communities.
  4. Delivering the green jobs we need: A National Nature Service, delivering wide scale habitat restoration and creating thousands of green jobs
  5. A Right to a Healthy Environment: establishing a human right to clean air and water and access to nature, building nature into decision making, enabling people to hold decision makers to account and driving changes that will recover nature and improve public health.

In 2022, the UK signed an international deal to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030. In England, that promise is underpinned by a legal duty in the Environment Act 2021 to stop the decline of species abundance, and a commitment to protect 30% of the land and sea for nature.

This leaves just seven years to turn environmental promises into reality. However, as the Office for Environmental Protection concluded, ‘the current pace and scale of action will not deliver the changes necessary to significantly improve the environment’. For nature, this means loss of irreplaceable habitats and 15% of our wildlife species at risk of extinction. For people and businesses, it means continued decline of air, water and nature will harm health and prosperity. For the climate, there is no hope of meeting net zero without restoring nature. The current Government has been quick with words but slower with delivery and the Nature 2030 coalition is urging commitments that will make a rapid change on the ground.

The coalition of charities is today also urging members of the public to add their name to an open letter being sent to all the main political parties to call for more radical nature commitments. Members of the public can add their name here: bit.ly/nature_2030

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