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11 Oct 2017

WWT proposes new accountability law

Posted in Latest news

A new law will be proposed at Westminster today (Wed 11 Oct) which would commit the Government to making the UK a little greener and healthier each year, or have to face up to Parliament and the public if they don’t.

The WWT (Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) will be urging MPs at a Committee room meeting to make the Government accountable for the country’s environmental performance through a statutory annual statement and debate – in the same way they do for its economic performance.

The new law would make the Government accountable for building – and not depleting – the value of services the environment provides for us all each year. This includes the value of our landscape providing clean air, natural materials, food and clean water and absorbing carbon, pollution and the effects of floods or drought. The Office of National Statistics estimated this at nearly £500bn in 2014 – which was roughly two-thirds the money spent on public services that year, which the Government is held accountable for.

The UK’s “natural capital” also includes the human health benefits a healthy British environment can bring. For example it’s estimated that every £1 spent on nature-based healthcare (e.g. doctors prescribing for sick people to spend time in green spaces) returns £3.12 of benefit in reducing the need for drugs and other treatments.

The proposed law is one of a number of recommendations in a WWT policy paper called Nature’s Way – The Environment for Success. The paper is timed to make politicians think about environmental factors as they design the UK’s post-Brexit policy framework.

WWT is asking MPs to be as vocal about losing these iconic British sounds as they were about losing Big Ben’s chimes. To bring home the point, WWT has overlaid the sound of Big Ben’s chimes with the sounds of struggling UK wetland species – natterjack toad, lapwing, curlew, black-tailed godwit, common scoter, common pochard, Bewick’s swan and crane (all declining except for the crane which went extinct but has recently been reintroduced). The sound file (listen here) will be played at Westminster when the Nature’s Way report is launched on Wed 11 Oct.

You can help. Write to your MP to ask them to help give nature a voice in Parliament.

On social media, share this link and use the hashtag #Timetobeheard

TV wildlife celebrity and WWT columnist Steve Backshall said:

“More than any time in my lifetime, it feels like we’re at a crossroads in history, a time of great import, and a time to show our quality. Our environments and wildlife are under unprecedented onslaught. The choices we make now will decide how our world looks and works for our children and their children.”

TV wildlife celebrity and former WWT volunteer Miranda Krestovnikoff said:

“I believe we need to put our natural world at the heart of our political agenda and push forward to create a more vibrant, healthy environment for generations to come.”

TV wildlife celebrity and WWT Vice President Chris Packham said:

“I want to see a new Environment Act that makes it the Government’s responsibility to do everything it can to make sure there’s more wildlife for the next generation.”

TV wildlife celebrity and WWT community wetland supporter David Lindo “the urban birder” said:

“If we keep pressing our environment to the edge, we will hurt wildlife and leave people living deficient, nature-less lives. I hope politicians will get out into the cities into the communities, and make this environment plan truly representative, catering to everyone’s need for nature.”

WWT Head of Government Affairs Dr Richard Benwell said:

“Every day in Parliament, nature’s needs are drowned out by other louder voices. But Brexit is such a critical turning point for the environment that it’s time to be heard. Otherwise, many of the species we love could fall silent forever. At WWT, we support the Government’s ambition to pass on our environment in better condition – now we’re campaigning for the action to make it happen.”

WWT Head of Communications Peter Morris said:

“MPs reacted with debates and statements at Big Ben falling silent for four years, so why aren’t they up in arms at the sounds of Britain’s iconic wildlife falling silent as our green landscape disappears? We’re asking them to make sure the value of nature is heard inside Parliament.”