At the end of 2019, Caroline Lucas, former co-leader and current sole MP of the Green Party, commissioned a “New Deal for Nature” to inform her work in parliament, feed into the party’s policies and stimulate public and political debate. A group of leading conservationists and nature writers (including Mark Cocker) wrote the report which was launched at the Linnean Society in December.
The report was prepared in anticipation of the so-called "super year for nature and climate" when UN conferences of the biodiversity and the climate would be held. Both of these conferences have now been postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but action on the crises of nature and climate cannot be postponed. In fact, the pandemic is one more symptom of the crisis of nature that human activity is provoking by destroying and fragmenting natural habitats.
The 2019 State of Nature Report found that 41% of species in the UK have declined, a quarter of mammals face extinction and Britain is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. In April the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a summary for policy makers ahead of their global assessment on the state of nature. The press release, titled "Nature's Dangerous Decline" describes the accelerating rate at which we are losing species and habitats and how dangerous this is for our own wellbeing. A new deal for nature is urgently needed.
The New Deal for Nature focuses on 8 areas of change and sets 80 recommendations, including:
20% of Britain to be designated as a national park and that new national parks should be set up.
Every farmer to be paid to devote a minimum of 15% of their land to nature.
Public land to be rewilded, especially hospital grounds, to aid patient recovery.
Some brownfield sites to become SSSIs or given pop-up, temporary wildlife protection.
Wildlife-friendly gardens to be encouraged.
The increase in aquaculture operations (e.g. open cage salmon farming) to be stopped where they harm aquatic life.
All primary schools to provide one hour a day of outdoor learning and be twinned with a farm. A
GCSE in Natural History to be introduced to educate the next generation.
Early-warning systems to assess the threat from invasive, non-native species (which are growing by 10 to 12 species every year) go be put in place.
As part of a Green New Deal, the Green Party proposes a Sustainable Economy Bill to ensure that our economy works with our environment, not against it. That means binding targets on biodiversity, soil health and water quality monitored by a new enforcement body.