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Fri, 23 October 2020

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We must start acting now to protect the environment

We must start acting now to protect the environment

The Government has to pilot ‘rewilding’ approaches, bringing diverse ecosystems back to some of our most depleted areas, says Wera Hobhouse MP | Credit: PA Images

4 min read

In the midst of the unfolding Covid-19 crisis, World Environment Day 2020 offers us a unique moment to reflect our world.

The Covid-19 pandemic has left many of us feeling utterly powerless.

Millions around the world are coping with bereavement. Thousands are on a long road to recovery.

Many are facing the loss of jobs and livelihoods. Given the uncertainty as to when we can hope to see the end of this virus, it is hard to think beyond the immediate crisis.

We will not reach net-zero by 2050, let alone earlier than that, without proactively working to stop the degradation of our environment.

And yet World Environment Day 2020 offers us a unique moment to reflect our world.

In the midst of the unfolding Covid-19 crisis, the UN Environment Group has drawn a clear link between the public health emergency and the health of the planet as a whole, stating that: “By upsetting the delicate balance of nature, we have created ideal conditions for pathogens–including coronaviruses – to spread.”

With the next major global environmental conference, COP26, delayed as a direct result of the current coronavirus crisis, we must start acting to protect the environment.

The UK has a chance to lead by example and set a standard for environmental action. We will not reach net-zero by 2050, let alone earlier than that, without proactively working to stop the degradation of our environment.

This Tory Government must make a commitment to restoring our natural world. First and foremost, we need to improve the basic benchmarks of our environment, from the quality of our soil to the clarity of the air we breathe.

This means investing in large scale restoration of peatlands, heathland, native woodlands, saltmarshes, wetlands and coastal waters – helping to absorb carbon and to build resilience against floods, improve water quality and protect habitats.

The Government has to pilot ‘rewilding’ approaches, bringing diverse ecosystems back to some of our most depleted areas.

This is vital work and the Government needs to be accountable. They must set legally binding targets and guaranteed levels of funding for programmes which aim to restore and protect the environment.

We need to protect our environment for future generations.

Alongside my Liberal Democrat colleagues, I have written directly to George Eustice, Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, urging him to commit to our party’s proposed plans for the Nature Act.

This would be a comprehensive law that protects our wild places and restores vital habitats. It is more than ever that such a law is needed – to protect our environment and also to protect ourselves from the devastating impact of Global Pandemics.

In addition to these compelling arguments, such a law would hugely beneficial to our communities.

There’s a huge body of evidence to suggest that access to nature is crucial to mental health. With many traumatised by the ongoing crisis, we need to ensure we have robust mental health support in place for everyone going forward.

This is why I am challenging this Government to commit to major investment to increase the amount of accessible green space.

This could be done through completing the coastal path or establishing a ‘right to roam’ for waterways. Ministers could look to protect acres of landscape with a new designation of National Nature Parks. These are all Liberal Democrat proposals which, if implemented, would make a tangible difference to people's lives, and open up new opportunities and new space to enjoy the beauty of the natural world.

We need to protect our environment for future generations.

We know that the impact of the Climate Emergency will be drastic - it is already being felt right around the globe.

Protecting the natural environments right here, in the UK, could build resilience against extreme weather events, not least flooding.

It is critical that we reach Net-Zero no later than 2050 in order save our planet from irrevocable environmental damage.

World Nature Day 2020 needs to be the start of something much larger.

Our Government has the power to make this happen.

Wera Hobhouse is the Liberal Democract Member of Parliament for Bath and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Environment and Climate Change.

Read the most recent article written by Wera Hobhouse MP - Improving the energy efficiency of our homes is central to a green recovery

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