Act for Nature: Calls for new law to support recovery of nature and improve people's wellbeing

Wednesday 29th October 2014

Image credit: Matthew Roberts

Charities are today challenging political parties to ‘act for nature’ by introducing new laws to restore nature and increase everyone’s access to it, not only for nature’s sake but also for the contribution it makes to people’s health and wellbeing.

Healthy nature is a vital prerequisite for our long term health, wealth and security

The ‘Nature and Wellbeing Act’ Green Paper – published today – sets out compelling evidence which shows just how much people need nature.  It offers an ambitious package of measures to turn around the decline in our natural environment and contribute to many of our most pressing social and political objectives. 

The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB warn that the health of our economy and communities, education and our own wellbeing are inextricably linked to the health of the natural world and our quality of life will fail if society doesn’t take action for nature.

The charities have joined forces to launch a campaign called Act for Nature, working together as part of a growing movement of people and organisations who wish to see the natural environment recognised for its true value and contribution to our lives.

The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB - which together have more than two million members who want to protect nature – are calling for cross-party agreement on the need for nature and press all parties to include legislation for nature and wellbeing in their manifestos ahead of the General Election in May.

The General Election means political parties are now painting their visions for a brighter future, providing an opportunity for people to ask politicians to recognise how nature is intrinsically at the heart of better places to live in towns and cities as well as across rural landscapes.  Ensuring nature thrives and plays a part on all of our lives means decisions must not be based on short-term expediency.

Inactivity and obesity are escalating; poor mental health is having a significant impact on wellbeing; climate change is already affecting our urban areas and the productivity of our countryside; many of our villages, towns and cities face growing risk of flooding; and our economy continues to use much of the natural world in an unsustainable way, which is likely to be a brake on progress and development in the future.

The Green Paper shows our need for nature in every part of our lives:

  • The most deprived communities are 10 times less likely to live in the greenest areas.
  • Fewer than one in 10 children regularly play in wild places, compared to almost half, a generation ago.
  • If every household in England were provided with good access to quality green space it could save an estimated £2.1 billion in health care costs. 

A new Nature and Wellbeing Act should herald a wider long-term commitment by government to take consistent account of nature and the wider environment across all policy-making and legislation.

Dr Tony Juniper, author and campaigner, said:

“For too long we've become used to seeing nature as a 'nice to have', a luxury we can afford in the good times.  Even worse we have recently been told that looking after nature gets in the way of growth and competitiveness.  All this is plain wrong.  Nature is neither an optional extra nor a barrier to development.  Healthy nature is a vital prerequisite for our long term health, wealth and security.  That is why we need a new Act of Parliament, to help reverse historical trends and to restore nature in a generation.

"I warmly welcome this campaign from The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB and will be backing it every step of the way and until we get the new laws we need.”

Peter Young, Chair of the Aldersgate Group and trustee of The Wildlife Trusts, said:

“There is new overwhelming evidence for the value that nature can bring to our health and wellbeing, as well as underpinning our economy.  But it is not yet front of mind.  This Green Paper brings this evidence to the fore to show that the time is ripe for an ambitious and integrated approach to new nature legislation.  It is time to start the long road to recovery of our natural capital, and stop threatening our future physical and economic health through its neglect.  Nature's deficit is huge, a repayment plan needs to start now.  This call for a new Nature and Wellbeing Act is therefore timely.  Creation of nature, not its destruction, should be the future by-product of good business activity."

If we look after the natural environment, it will look after us and it can help solve some of society's most expensive problems

Steve Trotter, The Wildlife Trusts’ Director, England, said:

"The green paper provides powerful and irresistible arguments for why we need urgent change. If we look after the natural environment, it will look after us and it can help solve some of society's most expensive problems.  We need new and visionary legislation to underpin the needs of 21st century society in building a better relationship with nature - for people and wildlife.  It’s vital that we have a joined-up and scaled-up approach for the recovery of wildlife and wild places - and to bring nature into everyone's everyday lives."

Martin Harper, Conservation Director for the RSPB, said:

“We know that nature is good for us but we also know that nature is in trouble and that our children rarely play in natural places.  In this Green Paper, we demonstrate that our national wealth and our national health depend on action to protect nature, and so do many of our most wonderful species and habitats. That’s why the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts are challenging all political parties to introduce a Nature and Wellbeing Act in the next Parliament—only by valuing, protecting and connecting people with our natural world will government achieve its social and economic plans.”

Later today, A Nature and Wellbeing Act’ Green Paper can be downloaded from The Wildlife Trusts’ (wildlifetrusts.org/actfornature) and RSPB’s websites (rspb.org.uk/actfornature).

Every Prospective Parliamentary Candidate in England will receive a briefing document, which can be downloaded from the links provided above.

Join the discussion and follow the conversation on twitter with #actfornature

Contacts
• Anna Guthrie, Media & PR Manager, The Wildlife Trusts
01636 670075 / 07887 754659 / aguthrie@wildlifetrusts.org

• Gemma Hogg, Senior Media Officer (Corporate/Consumer), RSPB
01767 693582 / 07738 881359 / gemma.hogg@rspb.org.uk

Notes to editors

The Wildlife Trusts’ and RSPB’s call for a Nature and Wellbeing Act is supported by Butterfly Conservation, Campaign to Protect Rural England, John Muir Trust, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Plantlife and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Background
RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts are calling for a Nature and Wellbeing Act that secures the recovery of nature in England in a generation by:

  • Improving the status of species and their habitats for the next generation
  • Placing the value of nature at the heart of decision-making, nationally and locally, and across all Government Departments
  • Ensuring that local action for nature is linked across the land delivering natural green spaces and natural systems, that are more resilient in the face of climate change
  • Better connecting people with nature, giving everyone access to natural green spaces and ensuring that our children have a greater understanding of our natural world and what it does for us.

At the end of July, The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB called on all the main political parties to value nature, secure its recovery and underpin improvements to people’s health, wellbeing and the economy by committing to a new Nature and Wellbeing Act.

In September, The Environmental Audit Committee commended this call for a Nature and Wellbeing Act in its recent Environmental Scorecard report. (Recommendation 9, which you can see here).

In May 2013, the publication of the State of Nature report published by a coalition of leading conservation and research organisations concluded that UK nature is in trouble. Scientists working side-by-side from 25 wildlife organisations compiled a stock take of our native species – the first of its kind in the UK. The State of Nature report reveals that 60% of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether. More here

About The Wildlife Trusts
There are 47 individual Wildlife Trusts covering the whole of the UK. All are working for an environment rich in wildlife for everyone. We have more than 800,000 members including 150,000 members of our junior branch Wildlife Watch. Our vision is to create A Living Landscape and secure Living Seas. We manage around 2,300 nature reserves and every year we advise thousands of landowners and organisations on how to manage their land for wildlife. We also run marine conservation projects around the UK, collecting vital data on the state of our seas and celebrating our amazing marine wildlife. Every year we work with thousands of schools and our nature reserves and visitor centres receive millions of visitors. Each Wildlife Trust is working within its local communities to inspire people about the future of their area: their own Living Landscapes and Living Seas. www.wildlifetrusts.org

About the RSPB
The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity. In England and Wales, no: 207076. In Scotland, no: SC037654. http://www.rspb.org.uk/

 

Downloads

FilenameFile size
nature_and_wellbeing_act_final.pdf4.13 MB
nature_and_wellbeing_bill_summary_final_pdf_13354.pdf1.43 MB

Tagged with: Living Landscapes, Nature and Wellbeing Act