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'Serious action can't come soon enough' to protect our insect population

'Serious action can't come soon enough' to protect our insect population
3 min read

Insects provide an inordinate number of services to humans, and if we’re to be responsible custodians of our earth for future generations we can’t afford to be slow to protect them, writes Alex Sobel MP.


What do bees, butterflies and beetles have in common?

Of course they represent a mechanism to keep everything in balance by the very nature of the ecosystem they maintain. But it’s not just that.

From a human perspective, they provide billions upon billions of pounds worth of ‘services’ which would be incredibly hard and maybe impossible for humans to replace, and they do it for free. From travelling plant to plant pollinating our food, to making the compost that we use to fertilise our fields and from killing off unwanted pests to providing food to birds and other animals. But it’s not just that.

It’s dawning on us far too slowly that what these three insects and millions like them all have in commons is that they’re in rapid, unprecedented decline.

NGOs and Professors have begun to use very strong language, talking of irretrievable shifts, of significant loss in biodiversity, of insectageddon.

Even in natural habitats in Europe declines of 76% of flying species have been observed. Look around you, then imagine 3 in 4 people not being there. That’s a devastating reduction in numbers and something politicians should be worrying about much more than we have been to date.

It can be hard sometimes with issues like this and climate change if we’re not hearing from our constituents then is it worth our while? A core part of our representative democracy is that when we politicians are awoken to big trends with potentially huge connotations, that we act for our constituents in advance, communicating to them why we are and not just wait until they think that it’s a problem. Now that you’ve read this consider yourself woke. This is a big problem. You need to do something.

But what can be done?

For a start the Government needs to take this issue much more seriously. They’ve started to. Some small changes are being made, £60k is being spent on mapping the problem, some modest trial policies are being implemented, land manager incentives are beginning to shift and the very worst bee killing insecticides are being phased out, but this an incremental approach to a huge issue.

It does little to match the scale of the problem by a long chalk and this won’t become a priority for the government without pressure. Members need to read up on the many articles out there on this problem and the potential impacts, then speak about it much more in the media, through DEFRA questions and directly to ministers.

The Government needs to be encouraged to establish a statutory nature recovery network alongside LAs and focus resources on national delivery mechanisms. They should introduce a legally binding target for biodiversity recovery through the Environment Bill and workout a mechanisms for allowing the coming Watchdog to be able to fine the government (as the ECJ can now) and put that money towards fulfilling the outcomes the government haven’t managed.

Homogeny of our farm land and the loss of wild areas and hedgerows leads to habitat and biodiversity loss weakening the resilience of the entire system. The government should design new Agri-Environment Schemes so that they deliver safe pollinator habitat and a national network of flower-rich habitat B-Lines.

Insects provide an inordinate number of services to humans, and if we’re to be responsible custodians of our earth for future generations we can’t afford to be slow to protect them. With more than three quarters of life already lost in some sectors, serious action can’t come soon enough.

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Read the most recent article written by Alex Sobel MP - Commons Diary: Alex Sobel

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