DEFRA launches first White Paper on the Natural Environment in 20 years.

Defra has published The Natural Choice: Securing the Value of Nature, a White Paper setting out its vision for the natural environment over the next 50 years. The Paper includes a detailed programme of action, which aims to improve the quality of the natural environment across England, halt the decline in habitats and species, and strengthen the connection between people and nature.

Key points outlined in the White Paper include -

Reconnecting Nature

  • New Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs), transforming rural and urban areas and providing bigger, connected sites for wildlife to live in and adapt to climate change. With a £7.5 million fund for 12 initial NIAs to demonstrate just what can be done. Professor Sir John Lawton has agreed to chair the panel to allocate funding.
  • Biodiversity offsetting – new way for developers to ensure wildlife sites are not lost and make them better by making and improving other sites.
  • New Local Nature Partnerships to strengthen joined-up action across local agencies and organisations, with a £1 million available this year.
  • Phasing out peat – working with the horticulture industry to phase out peat use, which will help to protect and restore peatlands, which are valuable carbon sinks, habitats and part of the ecological network. A task force to consider all options to phase out use of peat in the supply chain will be chaired by Dr Alan Knight OBE.

 

Connecting People and Nature for Better Quality of Life

  • Green Areas Designation allowing local communities to give protection to areas that are important to them for recreation, the view or their importance for wildlife.
  • Better urban green spaces for the benefit of cities and towns. Support for parks, gardens, and tree planting which benefit people and nature alike.
  • More children experiencing nature by learning outdoors, through practical support to schools and reducing red-tape for outdoor learning.
  • Strengthening local public health activities which connect people with nature for better health.
  • New environmental volunteering initiative “Muck in 4 Life” to improve places in towns and countryside for people and nature to enjoy.

 

Capturing and Improving the Value of Nature

  • Natural Capital Committee – an independent body to report to the Government’s economic affairs committee chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This body will put the value of nature at the heart of the Government’s economic thinking, and advise Government about the best way of securing natural assets for the future.
  • An annual statement of green accounts for UK Plc – showing where the economy has withdrawn from the value of nature’s bank balance, and where it has invested in it. This will help measure green growth alongside GDP.
  • A business-led Task Force chaired by Kingfisher Group Chief Executive Officer Ian Cheshire, to expand the UK business opportunities from new products and services which are good for the economy and nature alike.

 

Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said:

“The natural environment matters to us all – not just because it makes us feel good when we stumble across a bluebell wood or spot a pair of goldfinches, but because we are now all able to see the terrible price we would pay if we lost what we have or neglected to care for it. Nature belongs to us all, and we’ve all got a vested interest in protecting it.

“That’s why the true value of nature should be built in to the decisions we make – as individuals, organisations, businesses and governments – so that we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it. This is what ‘The Natural Choice’ will help us all achieve.”

Full details of the White Paper are available here

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