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Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust: Legal bid launched before polls to tackle decline in wildlife

Wildlife and Countryside Link, a coalition of 83 environmental groups, including The Wildlife Trusts, has kick started a process that could lead to a judicial review of the government’s failure to review and improve current nature targets for England, writes Erin McDaid of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

Speaking about the bid, Richard Benwell, of Wildlife and Countryside Link said: “We need whoever forms the next government to step up and make the investment, the legal changes and take the action necessary to really start to turn things around.”

Shockingly, one in six species in the UK are currently at risk of extinction - despite a legally binding target set by government to stop nature loss by 2030. The coalition has challenged the government to explain how it is fulfilling legal obligations under its own Environment Act (2021) and Environmental Improvement Plan (2018, updated 2023). Under the terms of the Environment Act, the government is legally bound to halt the decline in species abundance, improve numbers of endangered species, meet key targets for wildlife-rich habitats and ensure that Marine Protected Areas are brought into favourable condition.

Turtle Dove. Credit: John Smith
Turtle Dove. Credit: John Smith

Whilst the main political parties have committed to halt species decline by 2030, Wildlife and Countryside Link wants government nature targets to be reviewed. Plans to restore biodiversity and prevent pollution are simply not working. Environmental charities can’t be expected to stand by and must be ready to take legal action where needed to get the government back on track to meet their own targets. Back in January, the Office for Environmental Protection, the independent watchdog, said that the government was “largely off track” on meeting its environmental aims – highlighting that only four out of forty targets for England are likely to be achieved.

With time running out for the government to meet its obligation to halt decline by 2030, Wildlife and Countryside Link’s first step is to write to the government asking why its legal duties haven’t been met. If the Government doesn’t provide a satisfactory response the coalition will consider pushing for a judicial review in the High Court.

Dormouse. Photo: Michael Walker
Dormouse. Photo: Michael Walker

Following the long-term decline in UK wildlife there is still no sign that the right policies are in place to halt and reverse that decline. It is therefore essential that whoever forms the next government steps up to deliver the action, legal changes and investment needed to turn things around before it is too late.

Alongside the action from Wildlife and Countryside Link, and against a backdrop of relatively little debate about nature in the election campaign so far, wildlife and environmental groups have been calling on all political parties to make clear commitments to halting nature’s decline. The next Government will be elected to serve for most of the remaining time available to meet vital targets by 2030 – so it is crucial that the new administration, whatever its political make up, develop and deliver policies that can secure nature recovery and tackle climate change.

Ahead of July 4th we are asking people who care about nature and the wider environment to let local candidates know how much nature means to them. If you’re not sure which way to vote and have yet to hear much about what parties are saying about the environment The Wildlife Trusts have published a series of blogs giving our take on what’s been said so far.

If you want to speak up for nature, now is the time to do it by emailing your candidates, attending a husting or speaking to candidates on the doorstep. Whilst we’ve heard relatively little so far from parties about the environment nationally, it was good to hear from candidates at a Climate and Nature focussed hustings last week in the Gedling constituency where I will be voting. The event, coordinated by Gedling Climate Change Group – with support from the Trust, was attended by over 100 people - sending a clear message to candidates that these really are issues that matter.

Details of our blogs on party manifestos, our own election priorities for parties and resources to help get your message across to the candidates are available on the Wildlife Trusts website.

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