Victory as Government pledges to halt decline of wildlife with Green Bill

Robert Irwin wins Wildlife Photographer Award

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Environment Secretary George Eustice has toughened the Environ­ment Bill following a series of ­stories which highlighted that it is weaker than had been promised. Mr Eustice has now amended it by pledging to “halt the decline in species abundance by 2030”. It is a legally-binding target. The move will protect endangered species such as the red squirrel, hedgehogs, Scottish wildcats and tree sparrows.

Alongside the Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition of green groups, the Daily Express highlighted how the Bill fell short of a legally-binding commitment to halt nature declines by 2030.

Public anger was so strong that 208,000 people signed a petition demanding that the Government beef up the provision.

Even Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, joined the furore. We also highlighted criticism from the Conservative Environ­ment Net­work, which includes more than 100 Tory MPs. The demand for a legal commitment is a key part of our Green Britain Needs You ­campaign to support the Green Industrial Revolution.

The Express has stressed the need for a strong Environment Bill in the run-up to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November when the eyes of the world will be on the UK.

Currently 41 percent of species, from hedgehogs to turtle doves, are in long-term decline, and 15 percent face extinction.

The move was widely welcomed by conservationists who praised ministers for ­listening, and the Daily Express for highlighting the loophole.

Dr Richard Benwell, of Wildlife and Country­side Link, said: “This improvement to the Environment Bill is a significant win for wildlife.

“This is a world first – a legal requirement to stop the decline in wildlife after decades of terrible decline, which is ultimately enforceable in court if the Government does not take the action required.

“When it was introduced, the Environment Bill was missing the legal backbone needed to ensure Government action for wildlife. We could only hope to win the changes needed in Parliament with strong public backing. The Daily Express campaign and John Ingham’s reporting have been invaluable.”

Tory MP Tracey Crouch, of the Conservative Environ­ment Net­work, said: “This has the potential to be the nature equivalent to our net-zero target for greenhouse gas emissions. Restoring our natural environment will create new jobs, help to tackle climate change, reduce flooding, and widen access to green spaces for the benefit of public health and wellbeing”.

Dr Benwell said it should ensure top wildlife sites are properly protected. Currently only 39 percent are in good condition.

Mr Eustice said: “The Environ­ment Bill is at the vanguard of our work to implement the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on Earth.”

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