BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 07 Nov'14

WHAT IT IS, WHY WE NEED IT AND HOW IT WOULD WORK

Many of the ‘free’ (but valuable) services provided by nature are under threat, such as clean water supply, pollination, resilience to flooding and food production.

Despite our existing legislation and policy, we continue to use many of our natural assets in an unsustainable way, putting our long-term economic prosperity at risk.

Act for Nature – ask your MP to support the Nature and Wellbeing Act

Why do we need new legislation?

A thriving natural environment is part of the solution to many social, economic and environmental problems. This was recognised in the Natural Environment White Paper, which set out an ambition to improve our natural environment and our connection to it.

But in order to achieve its aims, we need greater commitment to its recovery and fundamental changes in how we value, use and interact with nature.

Real change

A much stronger driver is needed, with the power to bring about fundamental change and the long-term commitment to keep all successive governments and all sectors of society on track to deliver what nature needs and what we need from nature.

Together, The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB are calling for a Nature and Wellbeing Act for England that will go beyond existing policy and legislation to secure nature’s recovery in a generation, ensuring we value what it does for us and that we work with nature to achieve significant improvements in the health and wellbeing of people, society and the economy.

Here’s what the Nature and Wellbeing Act would do.

Recovery of nature in a generation

The Nature and Wellbeing Act would set the first legal commitment to the recovery of nature in a generation. It would recognise that real improvements in the quality of life for people across England can be secured by working with, and increasing, nature.

It would set targets for government to drive progress, such as a 10% increase in populations of key species and for 80% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) to be in good condition by 2040. This would ensure that we can pass on the natural environment to our children in better condition.

Value

Better valuation and management of nature will help to protect it, while also securing economic and social benefits. The Act would formalise the natural capital approach to ensure that we put nature into the heart of decision-making, nationally and locally.

It would establish an independent statutory body, such as the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) or an Office for Environmental Responsibility (OER), with powers to hold the government to account for how we use and grow our natural assets and the benefits they provide.

Protect and Recover

The Nature and Wellbeing Act would establish a ‘national ecological network’, designed and built from the bottom up but within a national strategy to ensure that it ‘knits’ together across local boundaries and delivers national ecological benefits.

It would require every local authority to work in partnership to develop local ecological network strategies, which are then embedded in local plans and delivered with the input of all relevant government bodies.

These ‘Blueprints for Investment in Nature’ would be used to target funds and planning to deliver the natural infrastructure needed for the fulfilment of ecological, social and economic objectives.

The Act would also ensure that the populations of our most threatened species are targeted with the action needed at the local level to ensure their recovery.

Connect

The Act would set out mechanisms to ensure that everyone can easily access nature – through increasing the extent, accessibility and quality of natural green space near every home.

It would include an appreciation and understanding of the natural world as part of the purpose of schooling, so that all children leave school with the knowledge, skills and motivation to care for how we affect and benefit from our environment.

How would it work?

The Act would build on, rather than replace, existing legislation for the natural environment, which will continue to play a vital part in the protection of nature.

It would provide an opportunity to create a clear, logical and consistent legal framework for the recovery of nature, within which existing law and policy would work.

Like the Climate Change Act 2008, it would use duties, mechanisms and reports to create the accountability and political pressure necessary to achieve the purposes of the Act.

Read the full version of the Nature and Wellbeing Act Green paper and ask your MP if his or her party will Act for Nature and commit to a Nature and Wellbeing Act in their election manifesto.