Young conservationists make suggestions for a more wildlife-friendly UK

A Focus on Nature have recommended ways Britain can benefit wildlife in their Vision for Nature report. 

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Young conservationists make suggestions for a more wildlife-friendly UK
The report recommends that farming subsidies should only be paid to benefit wildlife. ©MikeLane45/iStock

 

A 250-year plan for the environment, all farming subsidies to benefit wildlife, primary-school children to spend 20 per cent of lesson time outdoors – these are three of the recommendations contained in the report that has been compiled by a group of young conservationists.

Called A Focus on Nature, the group consists of scientists, photographers and writers all under 35. The report – Vision for Nature – sets out how they would like to see the natural world managed by 2050.

One of the people who compiled Vision for Nature, 29-year-old climate-change campaigner Matt Adam Williams, said there were good reasons why the Government should take note of the report. “Our polling data shows that the millennial generation are more socio-environmentally minded [than previous ones],” he said.

Here BBC Wildlife looks at the recommendations and assesses how they relate to reality.

AMBITION
Government produces a 250-year plan for nature for the UK within the next 35 years.

REALITY
Defra is working on a 25-year-plan for the environment to be produced within the lifetime of this parliament – ie by 2020 – but for England only. This was one of the recommendations made by the Natural Capital Committee in January 2015.

AMBITION
Subsidies for fossil fuels in the UK to be redirected to renewable energy.

REALITY
Estimates for the level of subsidies given to the fossil-fuel industry by the UK government range from £3.7bn a year calculated by the OECD to £5.6bn calculated by the Overseas Development Institute and Oil Change International. The Government says that subsidies for renewables total about £5bn a year and will reach more than £10bn by 2020.

AMBITION
All agricultural subsidies to incentivise a way of farming that benefits wildlife.

REALITY
Under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in 2015 British farmers received £2.4bn in subsidies that were paid according to how much land they owned. All farmers are eligible to apply for additional funding for schemes that benefit the environment. In 2015–16, £453m was paid out under this, roughly 16 per cent of the total subsidy level. CAP funding will disappear when we leave the EU, and it will be up to ministers what they replace it with and whether there is any change to the wildlife component.

AMBITION
Twenty-five per cent of UK land and marine environments to be managed for nature.

REALITY
The total area of land and sea protected for wildlife and the environment in England was 21,000km2 in 2015 – 10,000km2 of terrestrial and freshwater habitat (representing 8 per cent of surface area) and 11,000km2 of marine habitat (representing 21 per cent of inshore waters). Much of the land is protected under the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designation, and of the 4,400 different sites, only 37.5 per cent are regarded as being in a favourable condition, with 58 per cent classified as ‘unfavourable recovering’.

AMBITION
A programme of rewilding and reintroduction, including keystone and apex species.

REALITY
The Scottish government is due to make a decision on whether to allow more reintroductions of beavers – a keystone species – following the five-year trial in Knapdale. In England, Defra has permitted a group of beavers living wild in Devon to remain there for a five-year period. A group of conservationists is pushing for releases of lynx – an apex species – in Kielder Forest. Reintroductions of white-tailed eagles have occurred in Scotland in previous decades.

AMBITION
20 per cent of lesson time in primary schools to be spent in the outdoors.

REALITY
A study commissioned for Scottish Natural Heritage found that primary schools in Scotland had increased the amount of time pupils spent learning outdoors from an average of 19 minutes a week in 2006 to 30 minutes a week in 2014, representing about 2.2 per cent of lesson time in the week. There are no comparable figures for other parts of the UK.

AMBITION
Programme to create 10 city national parks across the UK and develop urban nature.

REALITY
There are no city national parks in the UK, but a campaign to make London the world’s first ‘national park city’ is gathering momentum. According to Daniel Raven-Ellison – one of the brains behind the idea – it has the support of London’s new mayor Sadiq Khan and 44 per cent of the council wards in the Greater London area.

Read more news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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