Government’s mixed messages on natural environment could hamper conservation efforts

Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas MP today warned that the Coalition’s inconsistency on policies to protect our natural world and encourage a greener, more sustainable economy could ultimately hamper conservation efforts.

While she welcomed the Natural Environment White Paper published by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs today, Caroline said that many of the proposals lacked the legislative weight needed to make a sufficient impact – and called for more joined up thinking across Whitehall to promote genuine sustainability.

The Brighton Pavilion MP said, “While I welcome this report’s recognition of the need to address biodiversity loss and protect our natural environment, its proposals lack detail – and the test will really be in the implementation.

“Setting up a mere 12 Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs), for example, surely underestimates the scale of work needed to restore and safeguard important natural sites across the country.

“Furthermore, although local communities and volunteers will play an important role in engaging with and helping to protect the environment in their areas, this should not be a substitute for good governance, sufficient Government resources and over arching targets and legislation.

“Initiatives such as Local Nature Partnerships will need more than hollow Big Society’ rhetoric if they are to be successful.

“And while the economic evaluation of the natural world might be a well intentioned effort to convince economists and the business community of its importance, putting a price on the environment only serves to commodify it – perpetuating the idea that natural resources are simply there to be exploited.

“Ultimately, it’s also crucial to recognise that the protection of our natural environment is not just a matter for DEFRA – we need strong and consistent policies to mainstream sustainability across all Government departments, as well as tough emissions reduction targets to tackle climate change and a proper commitment to a low carbon economy.”

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