Government, politicians, environmental organisations and businesses today attended the online launch of WWT’s Blue Recovery.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak today outlined the Government’s budget for the next year.
As biodiversity continues to disappear from our rivers, lakes and other wetlands, WWT welcomes the findings of the Dasgupta Review, the much anticipated assessment into the economics of preserving nature. Until recently, the link between environmental loss and economic decline had yet to take centre stage. However the Review, the conclusions of which are launched today on World Wetlands Day, led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, highlights the intrinsic importance of a sustainable and healthy economy built on the protection of our most important asset - nature The Review makes clear that human wealth depends on nature’s health. It states that urgent and transformative action taken now would be significantly less costly than delay, and calls for change on three broad fronts: Humanity must ensure its demands on nature do not exceed its sustainable supply and must increase the global supply of natural assets relative to their current level. For example, expanding and improving management of protected areas; increasing investment in Nature-based Solutions; and deploying policies that discourage damaging forms of consumption and production.We should adopt different metrics for measuring economic success and move towards an inclusive measure of wealth that accounts for the benefits from investing in natural assets and helps to make clear the trade-offs between investments in different assets. Introducing natural capital into national accounting systems is a critical step.We must transform our institutions and systems – particularly finance and education – to enable these changes and sustain them for future generations. For example, by increasing public and private financial flows that enhance our natural assets and decrease those that degrade them; and by empowering citizens to make informed choices and demand change, including by firmly establishing the natural world in education policy.As the world fights a pandemic amid nature, climate and well-being crises, WWT is calling for fundamental reform of our economic models, and for large-scale healthy wetland restoration to be at the heart of realising Dasgupta's aims to preserve natural capital and boost prosperity. WWT agrees with the review that the rules that govern our economy, markets and finance must be radically changed to place nature at the heart of economic decision making. Without this, we will likely fail to solve the degradation of nature crisis which is currently having a disproportionate impact on freshwater species around the globe. Freshwater habitats, which host more species per square kilometre than land or oceans – are losing this extraordinary biodiversity two or three times faster than other habitats. A staggering 90% of the world’s wetlands have suffered from degradation contributing to an 84% collapse in freshwater biodiversity. WWT believes that investing in a blue recovery, by providing essential blue infrastructure that restores, protects and makes best use of natural capital, can help significantly reverse this decline and meets Dasgupta’s recommendation to prioritise investment in nature based solutions to benefit global economies and wider society.WWT are calling for creation of landscape-scale networks of nature-rich wetlands in the UK to build this vital blue infrastructure and provide crucial environmental benefits such as clean water, flood alleviation, carbon storage and boosting people’s health and wellbeing. To help provide a road map towards a blue recovery, in September last year, an international team of scientists from WWT, WWF, University of Cardiff and other eminent organisations produced an emergency freshwater recovery plan to set out how to reverse the global decline in freshwater biodiversity and help to create more healthy wetlands. The UK economy stands to lose around £15.5bn annually if it does not embrace restorative systems, such as networks of nature-rich wetlands, that sustain our underlying natural wealth and assets which can in turn lead to job creation, new markets and health protection. Policy and Advocacy Manager at WWT Richard Hearn said: “We are undermining the natural capital people depend upon and we welcome Daspugta’s efforts to bring economists, HM Treasury and other financial decision-makers further into this debate. “Over a quarter of our freshwater species are facing extinction and time is running out. WWT believes that delivering a blue recovery is a vital part of reversing this and meeting Dasgupta’s ambitions. “The most expensive thing we can do is return to business as usual. When we protect nature, nature protects us. Dasgupta shows us a way we can have a sustainable and healthy economy that doesn’t treat nature as an endless resource. “Economists need to take note, wetlands are biological super-systems. By improving freshwater biodiversity you’re saving a disproportionately high number of ecosystem services and species, which in turn benefit huge numbers of people and help bring prosperity to society as a whole.” The Dasgupta Review identifies a range of actions that can simultaneously enhance biodiversity and deliver economic prosperity. Read more here.
In the aftermath of Storm Christoph, The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) is calling for more nature rich wetlands in the UK to help stop repeats of this type of catastrophic flooding. Conservationists are making a fresh push for a re-think on flood prevention after thousands of residents in the North West of England and Wales were evacuated from their homes and a warehouse storing the Oxford vaccine was compromised when the extreme weather event swept in from the Atlantic last week. Local communities are still dealing with the aftermath this week. There are currently 32 flood warnings and 54 flood alerts in place in the UK. Wetlands – areas of land that are either covered with or are saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally - help shield communities by naturally preventing and mitigating the effects of flooding. WWT is pressing for more of these habitats as part of a natural solution to flooding, to be effectively incorporated into the UK government’s flood alleviation policies ahead of World Wetlands Day on 2 February 2021. WWT’s Senior Project Manager for Wetland Landscapes, Tim McGrath, said: We can fight water with wetlands. It might seem counterintuitive, but adding water in the right places can assist with flood prevention. Nature rich wetland habitats such as wet grassland, peatlands, bogs, fens and saltmarsh soak up excess water, then release it slowly back into river systems, offering a sustainable long-term solution to the rising risk of flooding and unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change. The UK has lost 90% of its wetlands over the past 400 years[i]. In cities, rivers and streams have been built over and wetlands, which once would have absorbed and stored surplus water-flows, have been drained and channelled. In rural areas, historic wetlands have been drained for farming and development. The impact of these losses are becoming more severe as climate change increases the volatility of our weather. Physical flood barriers like concrete walls and dredging can protect homes and businesses from flooding, but the cost of building and maintaining vast flood defence schemes for every village, town and property that floods is prohibitive. Other options are urgently needed if local homes and communities are to be protected more effectively in future. Natural Flood Management (NFM), a term to describe using ponds, flood plains and wet woodlands to manage and hold water in the land for longer, offers a more natural, sustainable and cost-effective way of mitigating the risk which can bring multiple benefits for people and wildlife. WWT is expert in creating, restoring and managing wetlands to help naturally alleviate flooding both in urban and rural settings and has been doing so for many years. It has been working with local authorities and other conservation charities on Natural Flood Management projects in the Cotswolds, Stroud and Gloucester. In Somerset, where staff have been planting hedgerows and creating wetlands to protect residents, the Trust has recently received £1.58m from the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund to further protect and enhance the coast there. WWT’s Carina Gaertner, who oversees the project in Somerset, said: Overly managed landscapes have destroyed one of nature’s great flood defences – wetlands. For the past two hundred years we have been guilty of mismanaging wetlands, clearing out watercourses, straightening and sanitising them; making water flow away as quickly as possible – but causing flooding downstream. We need to rewind the clock and re-wild our rivers, streams and other wetlands. We need to change our mind-sets to a less tidy approach so water is held in the landscape for as long as possible to allow it to slowly pass through the catchment over a long period rather than rushing off the land in a flash flood. In urban areas, rainwater has long been treated as waste to be channelled out of cities and towns via drains that can overflow following heavy periods of rain and spill into the sewage system. WWT promotes SuDS - sustainable drainage systems. They manage the rain at the point it hits the ground or roof, slow the flow of water and cleanse it as it passes. The water is then retained in a system of ponds, swales, rain gardens and filter strips which can be created anywhere. As they incorporate water and plants, they can help wildlife in the same ways as natural wetlands. The costs of Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis that swept the UK in early 2020 are still being calculated. Across the country, hundreds of businesses were badly damaged. Early estimates suggest the cost to the insurance industry of both storms could hit £425 million. By the 2050s the annual average losses from coastal and river flooding in England and Wales could rise to between £1.6 and £6.8 billion[ii]. WWT is working closely with organisations like the Environment Agency to build up a body of evidence to help persuade Governments, businesses, landowners and property owners to invest in wetlands – be they woody dams, urban rain gardens or saltmarshes – as a nature-based solution to reducing flooding. For more information on how nature-rich wetlands reduce flooding visit wwt.org.uk/flooding. Case Study Lauren Turner, 27, from Warrington, Cheshire, had to be evacuated by boat with her three young children aged 6, 2 and 2 months following Storm Christoph. I first started to worry on Wednesday evening as the water level was creeping up the garden. When I woke up the next morning at 6am, the electrics had gone. It was only when I got to the top of my stairs that I noticed the entire ground floor of our house covered in murky water. It was frightening. My poor six-year-old was inconsolable because he didn’t understand what was happening and thought that the water would keep rising and that we wouldn’t be able to escape. We stayed upstairs until the rescue boats came for us in the afternoon. The fire services were brilliant and it was the first time I felt like I could relax and that my children and I were safe. I am currently staying with the father of my children. We co-parent and thankfully have a good relationship. I don’t know when we’ll be able to move back in. We were told that the floodwater had mixed with sewage so not only do the floors need to be replaced, the house will have to be deep-cleaned too. Everything on the ground floor is destroyed and needs replacing including my sofa, a bookcase, my rug and the kids’ toys which were downstairs. I have no idea what the cost will be, but I certainly can’t afford to do this regularly. Apparently, this area is prone to flooding at this time of year but my neighbours have said they’ve never seen it this bad. As a community, we are hoping something will be done so we don’t have to experience this again. We are all very worried. I’ve never experienced flooding before and it has completely changed how I feel about my home. I used to feel safe there – I loved it – but now I’m afraid that this is something we’ll have to go through as a family, every year. [i] https://nbn.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/State-of-Nature-2019-UK-full-report.pdf [ii] https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-02/GlobalFutures_SummaryReport.pdf
As the vote approached, we launched a callout in partnership with BirdLife Europe to ‘share a swan’ as a symbol of hope. See a small selection of some of the artworks our supportive WWT community produced!
WWT's ambitious new project to safeguard the Somerset coast from the effects of climate change has received a £1.58m donation as part of the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. It is one of the first environmental projects awarded a grant from the government’s £80 million allocated pot. The scheme, which will focus on creating and restoring 130ha of habitats for wildlife, aims to increase the robustness of the county’s coastline by delivering landscape-scale interventions. Nature-based solutions, through natural flood management and improved land management, will also boost flood resilience, improve soil and water quality and help wetlands to absorb carbon.The development also aims to embed the knowledge and skills within local communities so that they can continue this work well into the future.WWT’s Senior Project Manager for Wetland Landscapes, Tim McGrath said:“The world is facing a climate crisis, a nature crisis and an emerging wellbeing crisis. To combat this, WWT is launching its own Blue Recovery, which proposes the creation and restoration of wetlands as a natural solution to these problems.“Healthy wetlands have multiple benefits for people and wildlife; they store more carbon than forests, they store and slow the flow of water, preventing flooding, they support biodiversity and provide people with an abundance of nature to enjoy, proven to have positive impacts on health.“We are so pleased to be the recipients of such a generous fund to help this work get underway in Somerset, where WWT has had a longstanding presence, centred around the spectacular WWT Steart Marshes.”The project will be delivered in partnership with Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group South West (FWAG), Bridgwater & Taunton College (BTC) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Defra announced grants between £62,000 and £3.8 million today, to help create and retain thousands of green jobs. The projects, spread across England, will see trees planted - 800,000 in total - and protected landscapes and damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests restored, alongside wider conservation work. The projects will also support environmental education and connecting people with green spaces.The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a key part of Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to kick-start nature recovery and tackle climate change. The fund is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency. 68 projects have been awarded grants between £62k and £3.8 million to kick-start a pipeline of nature-based projects while creating and retaining jobsFirst funding round sees almost £40 million allocated, second round of funding to open in early 2021 Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, said: “These projects will drive forward work across England to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create green jobs, and will be a vital part of helping us to build back greener from coronavirus. “I look forward to working with environmental organisations as these projects help address the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, while creating and retaining jobs as part of the green recovery.” Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Supporting our natural environment is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. All these projects are of huge benefit to our beautiful countryside and wildlife, but will also support jobs, health and wellbeing, which are vitally important as we begin to emerge from the coronavirus crisis.” The government’s forthcoming Environment Bill puts the environment at the centre of policy making to ensure that we have a cleaner, greener and more resilient country for the next generation. The fund is supporting a range of nature conservation and recovery, as well as nature-based solutions projects, which will contribute towards government’s wider 25 Year Environment Plan commitments.
The Prime Minister has today unveiled his plans for a green industrial revolution to boost a green recovery. The Government’s Ten Point Plan includes measures to expand protected landscapes and create and retain jobs in the environmental sector. In his announcement, Johnson confirmed £40 million in additional investment into the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund for generating thousands of green jobs in areas such as the restoration of wetlands, including the renovation of damaged habitats like peatlands, critical for storing carbon. He also confirmed that £5.2 billion had been allocated for flood defences to help the country adapt to the changing climate, with an increased focus on nature-based solutions highlighted in the recent flood strategy.WWT is keen that the government embraces nature based solutions that utilises the many benefits of wetlands to protect the UK from the effects of climate change and to enhance and protect biodiversity. Tom Fewins, WWT Head of Policy & Advocacy, said: “We welcome this action at the top of Government to address the biggest existential crises we face: the climate and nature crises. This is desperately needed and – given how much the Prime Minister has on his plate – it is encouraging. “Covid-19 may have our attention but the climate and nature crises have not gone away. The Ten Point Plan is a useful start however this investment falls short of what is required. We want to see better use of nature-based solutions through a ‘blue recovery’ that creates wetlands at scale and unlocks the vital services they can provide, from carbon storage and flood protection to wellbeing and biodiversity. “We depend upon our wetlands for our prosperity and wellbeing however we have lost 90%. Given the huge challenges we face, now is the time to put them back. With key summits taking place next year on climate and nature, there couldn’t be a better time for the UK to show international leadership and spearhead a drive not only for a green revolution but also a blue recovery.”
A key element of the 2020 Living Planet Report's Freshwater Deep Dive, this scientific paper outlines a revolutionary plan to reverse the rapid decline in the world’s freshwater species and habitats while protecting our life support systems.
In response to Sir James Bevan's speech today at the launch of the Environment Agency's State of the Environment report, WWT's Director of Conservation, Dr James Robinson said: Sir James is right to say investing in a healthy environment is about the smartest thing we can do, and we cannot have that healthy environment without healthy wetlands. We depend upon our wetlands for many of the essentials of life yet we have lost 90%, and many of those that remain are in a degraded or fragmented condition. We know that being by such blue spaces is one of the best things for your wellbeing, with access to good quality urban blue space helping to support healthier, more sustainable behaviour, alongside many other benefits. In 2018 the Government set an aim for more people from all backgrounds to engage with and spend time in green and blue spaces in their everyday lives. They were right to do this and, 2½ years on, the Covid pandemic has shown just how much people need this. Access to urban blue space remains unequal and public health overall is poor, yet wetlands can play a big role in helping to change this. From installing garden ponds and street planters to building neighbourhood rain gardens and community wetlands, there is so much we can do to provide people with easy access to benefit their wellbeing on a daily basis. As it decides where to invest public money for the UK’s recovery, we urge the Government to make this a blue recovery which invests in wetlands as essential blue infrastructure to protect public health, build a resilient economy and repair our environment. Our mission for wetlands We're researching ways that wetlands can help our wellbeing, so everyone will recognise the amazing things nature can do for both us and wildlife. Find out more
Scientists predict that one of the impacts of our climate emergency will be heavier rainfall and greater frequency and strength of storms. Find out how we can use wetlands to help reduce flooding in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
The water situation in the UK is precarious, yet a clean and reliable water supply is vital for many businesses. Water companies, the drinks industry, agriculture, horticulture and energy companies are just some that spring to mind. Over-abstraction, where water is taken from the landscape for use, continues to be a problem. Pollution also remains a major issue with only 14% of England’s rivers classed as having ‘good’ ecological status. Last year saw a surge in concern over the impact we are having on our environment and a rise in public support for urgent action to tackle the crisis. As we seek our way out of the global pandemic, people don’t want to return to the unsustainable trajectory we were on. Building a more environmentally sustainable future remains vital to a new economic model, a so-called ‘green recovery’. We believe that wetlands can provide the solution to many of these challenges. Using wetlands to reduce water pollution Disposing of water and associated pollutants can represent a significant cost for businesses. There are now many forms of treatment wetlands that have been shown to provide effective pollution control. The operating costs for them are low and capital costs can be highly competitive compared to other treatments. Glengoyne Distillery is working with WWT to use wetlands to treat their wastewater naturally, enabling them to save money while improving the environment at the same time. The whisky distillation process creates something called ‘spent lees’, which is the liquid they no longer need, post distillation. Instead of having to be sent off-site to an industrial treatment plant, this wastewater is now filtered onsite. The liquid now makes its way through a series of twelve specially created wetlands where reedbeds filter and clean the liquid, before it flows into the local burn and then on to Loch Lomond.
Ahead of the Government’s proposed changes to planning processes, to be published tomorrow 6 August, environment groups including WWT are warning that radical reform of the planning system could mean sweeping losses of nature, unless critical environmental rules are maintained and strengthened. While the coalition Wildlife and Countryside Link acknowledges that the system can be improved, it warns that oversimplifying planning rules would put wildlife, heritage, and green open spaces in danger. This is particularly worrying at a time when 81% of the public feel the Coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated the importance of protecting and restoring nature. Strategic planning can offer some benefits for environment and development, but must be done in combination with much improved site-specific environmental knowledge - it cannot replace the current rules as nature doesn’t fit neatly into zones. For example some brownfield sites that could be earmarked as a priority for development are among our most important wildlife havens. The charities are warning that the environmental protections in the current planning system are vital for our struggling natural world and for people’s health and wellbeing. Public voices and community participation are also essential to our planning system and must be central to any planning reforms. The planning system is not the main cause of development delays or affordable housing shortfalls - 90% of applications are approved by local planning authorities. Reasons for delay instead include poorly designed proposals from developers, decisions by developers to limit build rates to maximise profit margins, unclear government guidance or its inconsistent application by agencies and authorities, and an acute lack of planning capacity in local authorities. The Government has committed to leaving the environment in a better state than it found it and to be a world leader on nature’s recovery, yet these changes could speed up nature’s decline. Therefore nature and access groups are urging the Government to ensure the planning system has: Additional investment in ecological survey and data, mapping out important habitats and speciesMore ecologists and environmental planners in Local AuthoritiesClearer rules to prevent low-quality applications by developersStronger protection for nationally endangered species and their habitats.Better use of digital information, satellite mapping and ecological surveys Stronger planning provisions in the Environment Bill, with biodiversity gain for all developments and Local Nature Recovery Strategies capable of influencing planning and spending decisions. Environmental groups are convinced that a strong and green economic recovery would be facilitated by strengthening, not weakening the planning system.Dr James Robinson, Director of Conservation at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), said: ‘Current planning policy is presumption in favour of sustainable development. We must keep it that way. Planning tools such as Habitats Regulations and Environmental Impact Assessment have served us well. They make sure we get good decisions for the public and wildlife.’Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘We need a more modern and strategic approach to planning, based on better environmental information and a digital approach, but these changes must complement existing environmental planning protection, not replace it. 'The scale of reform proposed by the Government could allow unrestrained development across great swathes of our landscape, unless it is properly balanced by site-specific, democratic and transparent protection for nature across the country. We could support changes that improve environmental decision-making, but would fiercely oppose an approach that extends permitted development across large areas without proper protection for our environment.’ Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: ‘The key acid test for the planning reforms is community involvement and on first reading, it’s still not clear how this will work under a zoning system. Although we welcome the government’s commitment to all areas having a local plan in place, we also need robust legal guarantees that the public are consulted regarding new development. Red lines on a map are not going to build trust in the planning system. As things stand, the government seems to have conflated digitalising planning with democratic planning – they’re not the same thing.’ Kate Gordon, senior planner at Friends of the Earth, said: ‘These planning reforms are bad news for our communities, climate, and local democracy. A robust planning system is essential to deal with the housing, nature and climate crises we face, so we can emerge from the pandemic in a green and fairer way. Weakening the system will only benefit developers because it will mean building where developers can maximise their profit, rather than what communities need. These proposals are a developers charter that bypasses the democratic wishes of communities and threatens a wave of poorly-built, badly-sited developments.’ Gemma Cantelo, head of policy and advocacy, the Ramblers, said: 'The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how vital access to nature is to our health and happiness - and how important our precious green spaces are to communities. Our planning system should drive the creation of greener and healthier places, not undermine them. The places we live should give people easy access to nature-rich green spaces from their doorsteps, put walking and active travel first, and enhance our beautiful landscapes for future generations. That means putting people and nature at the heart of the planning system.' Nicola Hodgson, Case Officer at Open Spaces Society, said: ‘Government, local authorities and our communities must all work together to ensure that everyone has access to good quality green space close to home. This is a vital element of a green recovery after the pandemic, with people valuing the green on their doorsteps more than ever. It is essential that the government ensures that changes to boost building aren’t at the expense of the open green spaces and wildlife pockets that people value and visit in their neighbourhoods. Emma Marsh, Director, RSPB England said: 'Nature is in free-fall and the planning system has a crucial role to play in reversing that. In a recent study, 81% of people in England agreed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has shown the importance of protecting and restoring nature. It is therefore vital any reforms show how the planning system will protect nature and ensure its recovery.' Matt Shardlow, CEO, Buglife said: 'At a time when insect populations are crashing and endangered species are increasingly being driven towards extinction by habitat destruction and fragmentation, we need to care for life on earth and make safe space for it to thrive, the deregulatory and free-for-all tone of these proposals seems to be pointing in the wrong direction.' Abi Bunker, Director of Conservation and External Affairs at the Woodland Trust, said: ‘National planning policy changes did increase protection for our precious ancient woods, but planning policy is one thing, ensuring it is followed, enforced and put into practise is another. If the government is really serious about delivering a better informed, more transparent planning system that supports efforts to protect and expand woods for the benefit of people, communities and wildlife, it is critical that it invests in the right resources and skills, and robust evidence bases including an updated Ancient Woodland Inventory.’
In response to the Secretary of State for the Environment, George Eustice MP's speech this morning, WWT's Director of Conservation, Dr James Robinson, said, We welcome the Secretary of State's ambition to put nature at the centre of a green recovery. We are running out of time to properly address the nature and climate crises we are in and the surge in public support demonstrates the demand for urgent action. There is also clear scientific evidence, growing political support and sound economic reasons for investing in nature-based solutions such as wetland ecosystems, as part of our response. These provide huge public benefits such as flood defence, carbon storage and water quality improvements. They can also provide significant benefits in improving our wellbeing, so the Secretary of State’s announcement for more support for such ‘blue prescriptions’ is welcome. Overall, however, we need to move from small-scale, ad hoc actions to significant strategic investments in what WWT is calling 'blue infrastructure', creating a wetland network that really helps people and wildlife. On the Secretary of State's comments about changing regulation, WWT urges the UK Government to focus on smarter regulation, not deregulation. Dr Robinson said, The UK has been a world-leader in developing environmental protections. Any proposed changes to environmental regulations need to be based on sound evidence. Society needs to know that government is acting in our best interest and putting the future of our environment, our life-support system, first. Our mission for wetlands We're researching ways that wetlands can help our wellbeing, so everyone will recognise the amazing things nature can do for both us and wildlife. Find out more
Lead ban on hold yet again as last minute objection derails plans.
Human swan Sacha Dench has added her voice to the call for a lead shot ban from wetlands.