Standing up for nature

Heather growing alongside a coastal path looking out towards the sea at sunset

The air we breathe, the seas we paddle in, the colourful leaves we walk through in autumn or see renewed in spring. The parks our children play in. Hearing the laughing cry of a green woodpecker or spotting an elusive red squirrel. Nature provides us with a lifetime of precious experiences, but now it needs our help.

As the government progresses the new Environment Bill, the National Trust is calling for environmental measures to secure the future of our much-loved wildlife, parks, and landscapes. 

" Nature revives, rejuvenates and restores us and it needs us, now more than ever."

Environment Bill: We need stronger measures to restore nature

The National Trust welcomes the steps taken to progress the Environment Bill but believe it is not strong enough to hold the government to account and ensure it delivers on its commitments to restore nature.  

Responding to the publication of the Environment Bill, Hilary McGrady, Director General of the National Trust, congratulated the government and welcomed the inclusion of long-term environmental targets. But she also stressed that it's vital for the new watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, to be made fully independent from the government. 

'Like the government, we want to see an ambitious and effective bill that will leave the environment in a better condition for future generations. The new framework to set long-term targets for the environment is particularly welcome,' she said. 

'But there is work left to do. The new watchdog - the Office for Environmental Protection - needs to be properly independent from government. Without real independence, the new watchdog won’t be able to fully deter future governments from breaking environmental laws, or hold their feet to the fire if they do.

'At the moment, the bill still allows for too much ministerial influence over the appointment of senior staff and allows ministers to control the budget to affect the work it does. We trust the government will look at this again as the bill goes through parliament.'

We're also concerned about the way environmental principles will be brought over from the EU into UK law, as well as the bill's exclusion of the historic environment. When the 25 Year Environment Plan was published in early 2018 we were pleased to see the historic environment put on a level playing field with the natural environment. But as it stands the bill risks undoing this by actively excluding the historic environment from the required scope of future versions of the Environment Plan.


What we're calling for

We know we must do more so that nature can thrive. This is why we'll be closely monitoring the bill as it progresses through parliament. If the UK is to be an environmental leader on the world stage in 2020, the government must ensure the following:

  • Environmental targets that politicians now and in the future need to meet and report on. Targets that clean up our seas and rivers, make our soils healthy again and rejuvenate habitats 
  • Legally-binding environmental principles to be carried over from the EU into UK law after Brexit.
  • An independent watchdog that will hold our politicians to account on the environment for many years to come.
" The UK’s wildlife is in trouble, and we’re seeing the effects of climate change at the places the National Trust cares for. The time is now to end the UK’s contribution to climate change and pass ambitious laws that create a healthier environment for nature and people. "
- Jo Hodgkins

Nature is in decline. The numbers of butterflies in English woodlands have dropped by 58 per cent since 1990, and just one in seven of our rivers are in good health. The Trust's dedicated teams are already doing so much to care for our countryside, but they are facing increasing challenges caused by a changing climate and decades of intensive farming.

Now, for the first time in more than 40 years, the UK has a golden opportunity to rewrite the rules. We can bring back nature to inspire future generations. We can give our children the chance to see a red squirrel darting between the trees, to run through a cloud of butterflies, or to paddle in a cool, babbling stream. And we can build a stronger foundation for food production, with rewards for farmers who create better conditions for nature.   

Why it matters

The government has said that this generation should be the first to leave the natural environment in a better state than when we inherited it. The current draft bill doesn’t go far enough to meet that promise. The government now has an opportunity not only to replace current EU law with the UK’s own version, but to go beyond the current protections and be truly effective in restoring nature.

We're making our views known because we believe that it is not sustainable to carry on with the way things are. Now is the time to act. 

How you can help nature

What we stand for

We're passionate about open spaces and historic places - and we're working hard in other areas too. With your help, we care for the environment, food and farming, green energy and transport, and heritage.