Buglife are extremely alarmed by the risks to the environment from several recent UK Government announcements. We join other environmental organisations in expressing our anger that the Government is reneging on its manifesto pledges for nature. This includes tearing up virtually all legislation that protects people and the environment from the harm caused by pesticides, laws that protect our best wildlife sites and rivers, removing protections for nature in the planning system and considering abandoning proposals that would help farmers to help nature.
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill sets an unrealistic 15 month timeline for abolishing all EU-retained laws. This bill will remove hundreds of environmental protections including those that prevent the use of harmful chemicals such as pesticides. While these could be replaced over several years no commitment has been made. For instance we are yet to see the long promised National Action Plan on pesticides, and, even if that was to be published ahead of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill deadline, it will be meaningless without the regulation to enforce it.
Instead of delivering on its promise for nature, the UK is moving in the opposite direction of many countries. At least 40% of bee species studied in the UK have suffered extensive local extinctions because of the use of neonicotinoid insecticides. Despite being banned, the UK Government is repeatedly granting farmers “emergency” use of these damaging pesticides against the advice of its expert advisors. Meanwhile the European Union has put forward a legislative proposal to reduce pesticide use across its member states by 50% and to ban pesticide use wherever endangered bee species live. Unlike the UK the EU has already banned the importation of neonicotinoid contaminated food and is retaining the pesticide assessment and control regulations that the UK Government are preparing to remove.
The Habitat Regulations is another key wildlife protection law, that provides effective protection for some of our very best sites for invertebrates and most endangered species. This is perhaps the most important law for conservation, and losing it will make it almost impossible for the Government to meet its targets on climate and nature.
Proposed Investment Zones in the Planning and Infrastructure Bill further threaten nature by creating a blank canvas for developers with no regard for the important species and habitats that currently survive within them. Planning rules already fail to properly protect the environment with the destruction of important habitats and pollution leading to the loss of vital invertebrate life. Relaxing planning rules will threaten our most important species further and cannot be allowed to happen.
Buglife are also deeply concerned by the rumoured abandonment of the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs). The scheme was a manifesto promise and would see farmers [in England] being paid to protect nature, ensuring sustainable and future-proof land for people and the planet. Buglife has been directly involved in trialling some of the proposals including a mechanism to deliver our much-needed B-Lines, increasing corridors of wildflower-rich habitats across the countryside. Reverting to a “cash for land” based system would not value the environment and the practices required to ensure our farming can grow food, enhance nature, and reverse climate change.
Repeated public opinion surveys show that environmental concerns are high on their list of priorities and there is overwhelming support for legislation that protects the environment. The people of Britain are desperate to see wildlife declines being addressed and will be aghast at the impacts of this reckless removal of protection.