Tories’ broken Environment Bill ignores local communities

Protecting our beautiful green spaces should be a priority for any Government. They are hugely important to the environment and help make our local communities so beautiful.

And this year, where many of us have spent less time in the pub and more time outside absorbing nature, was a timely reminder of why our environment should always be at the top of the agenda.

But for this Government, our natural spaces are only an afterthought, a distraction that can be brushed away under the carpet. If there was any doubt of that, look no further than the shoddy Environment Bill that came back to Parliament today.

The Bill does little to address the real concerns people have in protecting their local environments and preserving biodiversity.

We are already living in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, our waterways are in a poor state with just 14% in good condition, and more than 40% of native species are in decline.

This is an embarrassment as the Government claims to be increasing ambition and pushing for nature-based solutions in the run-up to COP26. It’s now or never to get this right and we have to get our own house in order first.

Our Government is failing to address the climate and ecological emergencies the UK faces on a daily basis. From air quality to plastic pollution to declining diversity, we need urgent action. The toothless Environment Bill is not a strong enough solution for any of it. It lacks the serious ambition necessary to protect British nature and our incredible landscapes.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats wanted to fix the bill to give local people the power to make decisions on their local environment, with an amendment that was frustratingly voted down. It would’ve given people the ability to protect important natural sites in their area and fend off developers who hold no regard for the area.

On the doorsteps of Chesham and Amersham, where there is a parliamentary by-election, locals are telling us about their concern for the chalk streams and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty coming under threat from developments forced upon them.

Our adjustments to the Bill would place the power back in the hands of residents and ensure a strong, independent regulator has oversight to hold decision-makers to account. It would have also ensured that farmers are paid for their contribution to protecting British landscapes.

We are all incredibly lucky to live in a country with such magnificent biodiversity and natural beauty. I’m sure when the rain stops and summer comes, we can all once again appreciate our local green spaces.

But this beauty cannot protect itself. We have a duty to guard it for our children, so they can enjoy it the same way we did.

We can only do that with serious action. We must continue fighting to fix the Environment Bill so that local communities have the power to protect nature.

* Sarah Olney is the MP for Richmond Park. She joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015 and won a spectacular victory in the Richmond Park by-election in December 2016. She lost the seat by a heartbreaking 45 votes in the 2017 General Election, but then regained it resoundingly at the 2019 General Election.

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  • The main threat to Chesham and Amersham is HS2 which is carving a broad swathe of destruction across Buckinghamshire. There was no credible business case for this project before the pandemic, there is much less now.

    Water removal from the River Misbourne was a major problem in last century. To give credit where it is due, water flows have been improving for a couple of decades. It takes this sort of timescale to see the full benefits.

    COP26 and climate change gets its obligatory mention even though it has nothing to do with the environmental health of our local communities and there is nothing the Lib Dems or COP26 can do about the global atmospheric concentration of CO2 anyway.

    About two thirds of CO2 is dissolved in the oceans and one third is in the atmosphere. The distribution is determined by ocean temperatures because the solubility of CO2 in water is temperature dependent. (Henry’s Law). Atmospheric CO2 has been increasing since we started warming up from the Little Ice Age in 1870. Anthropogenic CO2 does not even appear on that scale.

    Obsession with climate change is a major distraction and a diversion of resources that would be better spent on genuine environmental issues. The phrase “Climate Change” is meaningless because it means everything. That, of course, is why activists chose it when “Global Warming” became an embarrassment because nature did not follow the script. It may still be avoiding the script, those who predicted solar cycle induced cooling are watching the climate with interest.

  • Is support for HS2 still party policy ?

  • John Marriott 26th May '21 - 10:23pm

    HS3 yes, HS2 NO! Mind you, isn’t it a bit late now?

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