Devon Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive Harry Barton reviews the recent progress of the ‘greenest government’
When I was writing my piece for the last magazine, 2011 and 2012 were shaping up to be two of the worst years for the environment in quite some time. I know I made a number of you pretty depressed with my gloomy forecast, but it really did seem as if the government was determined to scotch our most important environment laws.
Well, I am surprised, and more than a little relieved to say that that things have turned out a lot less bad than I had feared. The land use planning framework has been fundamentally changed, but this may just turn out to be for the better. There will be changes to the European legislation that protects our very best wildlife sites, but it is unlikely to do away with the main principles. And some of the rhetoric from Westminster has changed too. We have heard a lot less about ‘ridiculous gold plating’ and ‘unacceptable costs on business’ for starters.
I am far from convinced that the cavalier attitude expressed towards the environment – as little more than a constraint to growth – was ever held by more than a small number of politicians. Clearly there is a powerful lobby within government looking to paint the environment as the enemy to economic growth and recovery. Thankfully, and due in no small part to the strength of our collective voice, it has not won the day.
While we breathe a sigh of relief, we must remember that one of the biggest challenges still lies ahead – that of saving our marine environment. There is still little sign of a genuine appetite in government for protecting anything more than a paltry number of our best marine wildlife sites, and there are even more serious questions as to what ‘protection’ actually means in practice. Candidate sites for marine protection are being damaged as I write.
We are far from out of the woods, and there is little sign that pressures on the environment, both politically and in a direct sense, will abate any time soon. But if recent experience tells us anything, it is that we are capable of changing policy for the better if we have the courage to speak up. And that – with your help – is exactly what we plan to do over the coming months for the sake of our marine wildlife.
Thank you, as always, for your unwavering support.