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What Theresa May's 25 year vision for the environment needs to say

Posted: Wednesday 10th January 2018 by DevonWildlifeTrust

Devon Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Harry BartonDWT chief executive Harry Barton

As the Prime Minister outlines the government's 25 year vision for the future of our environment Devon Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Harry Barton says what should be in it...

The Prime Minister’s first speech on the environment is a major milestone. We’ve waited a long time, and expectations will be high. Her predecessor wanted this to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. This will be the government’s great opportunity to stand by that pledge and show that they mean business.

Positive signals

Secretary of State Michael Gove has given a number of positive signals in recent months, including a promise to make sure that the environmental protections we currently enjoy will be at least as strong, if not better, after we leave the EU.

That’s a very welcome change from some of the negative and dismissive statements we’ve heard from Westminster over the past five years. What we need to see now is these laudable intentions tied into firm commitments.

Our wildlife, and the state of the natural environment generally, is still declining at an alarming rate. So the Prime Minister will have much ground to cover, and the 25 year plan, which we understand is due to be launched at the same time, will have a huge amount to address. But here are four things that I hope we will see featured strongly.

• A real commitment to green farming, with public funds directed towards helping farmers to manage the landscape in a much more wildlife friendly way, so that we see more habitat creation, less use of agrochemicals, reduced flood risk and better protection of our precious soils.
• A step change in the protection of our seas, so that fisheries are managed sustainably, our amazing marine habitats are no longer threatened and dolphins and whales can thrive in around our beautiful coastline.
• A major crack down on waste and pollution, whether it be from plastics or pesticides, so our bees and insects, and the birds that feed off them, start to recover
• A raft of measures to help people to access the natural environment more easily, by creating green space in new development, promoting outdoor education and through doctors providing “green prescriptions” to help tackle mental illnesses.

We want a real commitment to 'greener' farming

Backed by law

All this needs to be backed up by laws, properly funded and with clear targets. We hope the Prime Minister will commit to an ambitious new Environment Act, with an effective baseline of environmental regulation. If that happens, we might just be able to say that this was the turning point.

The 25 year plan has been a very long time coming. Let’s hope it proves to be worth the wait.

 

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