Make sure nature's voice is heard in the general election

Make sure nature's voice is heard in the General Election

Clive Mowforth

The General Election on 12 December is a crucial moment for wildlife in the UK. More than ever before, the natural environment has featured prominently in the election, with all the main political parties making new pledges to help restore and protect our natural world.

With the other Wildlife Trusts around the country, we are asking all our political parties to:

Back an ambitious Environment Act with legally binding targets to restore nature, a powerful, independent environmental watchdog, and a Nature Recovery Network to protect and join-up important places for wildlife.

 

Introduce an Agriculture Bill that pays farmers for helping wildlife and for restoring our natural countryside, so that public money is used for the good of everyone and farmers help to create a connected landscape.

 

Revive our Marine Environment through a network of Highly Protected Marine Areas and a new Marine Strategy to guide how we develop at sea, how we fish within environmental limits and how we restore our marine ecosystems to support plentiful fish and wildlife.

 

We asked all of Gloucestershire’s prospective parliamentary candidates the following questions:

  1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?
  2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?
  3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

You can read the responses of those who replied below. Please check to see if the candidates in your constituency have replied to us. If they haven’t, feel free to ask them and encourage them to get in touch.

Our natural environment is in crisis – the UK is one of the most nature-depleted places on earth and over half of our wildlife species are in decline. Social attitudes in relation to the environment are changing fast. In a recent survey of young people in Gloucestershire, climate change is their biggest worry and the environment features as one of the things they value most about our county. 85% say demonstrable care for the environment would encourage them to stay in Gloucestershire.

If you want to find the commitments the different political parties have made to the environment, you can read their manifestos online. You can also read Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s manifesto for a Wilder Gloucestershire, and find out how you can get involved here.

Fran Boait, Labour - Gloucester

I absolutely agree that this is a critical time for the future of our country and our planet. The environmental crisis that the world is facing needs to be tackled head on and immediately. Time is against us. So I am more than happy to answer your questions and help your members decide how to vote in this vital election.

1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

I am very proud that Labour have made the environment a priority for our work over recent years. As well as being one of the main areas of focus in our 2019 manifesto, we have also launched a separate Animal Welfare Manifesto and the Labour Green New Deal in October.

These lay out a wide-ranging and ambitious plan for the UK that will centre tackling the environmental crisis in finding solutions to the social injustice and stagnating economy that the country has been suffering. We believe it is vital that the environment is considered in every policy making decision. We will also introduce a Climate and Environment Emergency Bill, setting out robust, binding new standards for decarbonisation, nature recovery, environmental quality and habitat and species protection.

2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

We recognise in the Labour party that the farming community have been doing vital work in moving towards sustainable farming methods, protecting rare breeds and leading the charge in rewilding areas of the UK. We know it is very important that we work with farmers to continue and expand these efforts. We have a large number of policies inspired by this aim including additional DEFRA funding, investing in more county farms to replace those lost and working to increase access into farming for new entrants. We will also be putting protections in place for agricultural workers and promise to maintain or improve current EU standards of environmental regulation.

However, we think it is equally important to improve animal welfare in farming. Which is why we are committing to ending caged farming by 2025, strengthening the statutory codes of practice covering the treatment of farm animals and banning live exports of animals for slaughtering and fattening.

3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

Labour will set maximum sustainable yields for all shared fish stocks, redistribute fish quotas along social and environmental criteria and we intend to bring in a ban on electric pulse fishing. We’re also committing to supporting the ‘Blue Belt’ programme, to protect and enhance our marine environment around the UK and overseas territories. We strongly oppose whaling and would work with our international partners to stop the return of commercial whaling. We know there is a huge problem with Abandoned, Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG), otherwise known as Ghost Gear. Labour will consult on a National Action Plan on Ghost Gear.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read your excellent manifesto, I hope I will get to work with you to achieve all our aims as the MP for Gloucester.

Cate Cody – Green Party – Tewskesbury

1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

The Green Party have always placed the environment at the centre of all our policies. This stance is becoming increasingly vindicated as we understand more about how all our activities impact the planet.

Our manifesto commits us to introducing 3 acts with particular relevance to the environment:

  • A new Clean Air Act which will set new air quality standards for the UK.
  • Sustainable Economy Act including targets for new soil quality and biodiversity standards.
  • A Climate Emergency Education Act to support schools to teach young people about the urgency, severity and scientific basis of the climate and environmental crises, and to ensure youth voices are heard on climate issues.

The environment will be at the centre of all other parts of our legislative agenda. We will create a new ‘ecocide’ law to prevent crimes against the natural environment. This legislation will place a legal duty on government to prevent agricultural and industrial practices which harm the environment.

We will create a new Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). This will be one integrated body to enforce environmental protections, from clean air to litter-free roads. The EPC will enforce the ecocide law, the new Clean Air Act. as well as the new soil quality and biodiversity standards.

We will end the badger cull, which has no evidence basis and has failed to effectively reduce Bovine TB. In the 1990s the government commissioned a major study, the Krebs report, to investigate means of controlling bovine TB. This report recommended controlled trials, which were done. Analysis of the results concluded that culling reduced bovine TB by 19% in the cull areas but caused an increase of 29% in the surrounding region. The report stated that "badger culling can make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain. Indeed, some policies under consideration are likely to make matters worse rather than better.'' The report argued that it would be more cost-effective to improve cattle control measures, with zoning and supervision of herds, than it would be to cull badgers. In the time since the report, much more has been learnt about vaccination, especially through trials in Wales. NFU Cymru have been convinced by the results and have spoken in favour of vaccination.

2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

We will fund research into a sensitive test to enable cattle vaccination, as an essential, as well as humane, part of a meaningful strategy to control the spread of the disease. We will also invest in better farm bio-security and badger vaccination. This policy is based on the available scientific evidence.

3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

To protect our seas, we will commit to making at least 30% of UK domestic waters into fully protected marine protected areas by 2030. We will also work with British Overseas Territories (BOTs) to increase the ‘blue belt’ protecting BOTs’ waters from commercial extraction, from the current 32% of coverage to 50%.

The centrepiece of our manifesto is the Green New Deal. A large part of this considers food, farming & forestry. This includes policies such as:

  • Work with farmers to refocus farm subsidies to help farmers transition to more sustainable, diverse and environmentally friendly forms of land use.
  • Provide farmers with grants to allow replacement of old high-emitting carbon farming machinery with low carbon machinery.
  • Encourage the expansion and replanting of hedgerows.
  • Better connect rural communities through reliable broadband.
  • Plant 700 million new trees and aim for 50% of all farms to be engaged in agroforestry by 2030.

Perhaps the most important proposal is this:

  • Legislate to give farmers greater security of tenure, so that they can invest in sustainable improvements to their land, whilst ending the use of land as a tax shelter and encouraging new entrants into farming.

This has the potential to dramatically change the way our countryside is used, and the relationship to the land of those who work on it.

The objective is that through reforestation, rewilding and regenerative farming, we will reduce carbon emissions and realise the land’s ability to absorb carbon, while at the same time enabling it to provide a healthy and varied diet for all of us.

David Drew, Labour - Stroud

1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

I am a long-term member of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) and have worked with both CEO Roger Mortlock and his predecessor Gordon McGlone to highlight the issues of biodiversity and protecting our natural landscape over the last 20 years. I am pleased Labour is totally committed to approaching this general election as the Climate Change election.

However, as much as we must remove our dependence on carbon and deal with the emissions problem, we also have to recognise how much we have depleted our natural environment and we see how species have either faced dramatic decline or, in some cases, been lost to whole areas of our cities, towns and countryside. I am therefore proud to be the Species Champion of the Large Blue Butterfly, which is doing well at Daneway Banks and is now being reintroduced to other sites.

Therefore we must introduce a radical Environment Bill encompassing the concept of Ecocide, recognising the great work of environmental bodies like GWT and XR. As part of the process of getting effective legislation in place to return our natural environment to a much healthier state, it is vital that the government of the day carries out full and proper consultation with those most involved in the day-to-day management of our landscape and listens to them about how we can best repair the damage.

Lastly, we must start to fund again those organisations most directly involved in the environmental area, given the scale of the cuts that both Natural England and the Environment Agency have had to endure, and I know through meetings with staff how disillusioned they are at having to reduce their ability to really sustain the quality of the natural environment.

2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

I was the Opposition lead on the Agriculture Bill a year ago. I spent weeks of my time trying to improve this bit of legislation, with a particular focus on better environmental features. It is a tragedy that the Bill didn’t get beyond Committee Stage in the House of Commons. This means that we have no agriculture policy in place if we were to crash out of the EU, where we have been part of the Common Agricultural Policy for the last 45 years. Whilst replacing area-based payments with environmental support monies is completely the right direction of travel, the Conservative government has refused to make any commitments over long-term funding for what would be the most dramatic change in our farming system for the last 100 years.

Key to these changes is the successful implementation of the Environmental Land Management System and the financial support that will be given to farmers, landowners and other custodians of the landscape. Sadly, these pilot projects have only just started, yet the government intends to introduce the new approach by 2021. This is a ridiculously short time frame as, alongside the new system, there will be the rapid reduction in basic payments which so many farmers rely upon to boost their income.

I am pleased that GWT, along with other wildlife bodies, had its proposals accepted for the pilots, but it is vital that environmental organisations work with and through farmers to ensure that the scheme is not only right for the environment but also gives sufficient support to those farmers for them to continue in existence. My fear throughout the debates on the Agriculture Bill is that the government is using this opportunity to substantially reduce the current level of support available from £3.4 billion to under £1 billion. Labour will not let this happen and is committed to maintaining the current level of expenditure, and if necessary we will increase this support, given the importance of farming not only to the rural economy but as the centrepiece of our food-supply chain.

As the leading supporter of tenant farming and farmers in the House of Commons, I am particularly focused on how we can protect this group of farmers as the changes take place. They are already vulnerable to the pressures of the marketplace, with the failure of supermarkets in particular to pay a proper return for what is produced. It would be completely wrong if the government’s approach to encourage a better farm environment masked an attack on smaller family and tenant holdings, as the funding is substantially reduced. Rather than a better environment, we will end up with prairie farming in parts of the country, larger and less humane animal holdings, and an industry where it is even more difficult for younger people and those not from a farming background to enter the industry.

I have been really impressed by how farmers, including the NFU, CLA and TFA, have approached the changes. What now needs to happen is for us to bring the opportunities of protecting our natural landscape into fruition. If we don’t, not only will we see a deteriorating landscape, we will also face a dramatic failure in our attempts to face down climate change. The truth will be seen in how many more hedgerows we grow and protect; how many more trees we plant and manage; and how biodiversity, rather than being under attack, begins again to flourish through the necessary measures. Alongside this, we must recognise how important it is to restore soil quality, manage our waters much more carefully, and concentrate on improving air quality – a problem in rural as well as in urban areas.

One immediate action of an incoming Labour government will be to end the cruel and pointless badger cull, which I have spent years highlighting as the wrong way to bear down on Bovine TB, a dreadful disease affecting cattle farmers but one that should not focus so much upon eradicating one of our most precious indigenous species. I therefore support the vaccination strategy undertaken by GWT.

3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

As much as the land, its ownership, management and protection matter, so does our water environment. I was pleased some years ago to be fully involved with the evolution of the Water Framework Directive, which began to turn around some of the deterioration in our rivers and water courses that has happened over such a long period. This was one of the great successes of the EU. We now need to turn our attention to our seas and oceans. We have all been distressed to see how bad the pollution through plastic and other artificial substances has occurred, as evinced through David Attenborough’s Blue Planet. More than anything, this has been a cry for immediate and drastic intervention to recognise that life forms in our seas and oceans are under even more attack than those on the land.

One of the most depressing failures of this Conservative government is its failure, as with the Agriculture Bill, to carry through Fisheries legislation so that we are clear what will happen if the UK leaves the EU. As we saw last Christmas with the conflict over scallop fishing, it is too easy for disagreements over fishing rights to deteriorate into dangerous situations. The UK cannot unilaterally decide on where, when and what to fish. Though there are many problems with the Common Fisheries Policy, it has at least been science-based, and we have some idea of the level of depletion of particular stocks. It would desperately sad if our current arguments with the EU were to result in an even more difficult future scenario with fishing stocks were to arise.

One of the real problems with the UK is that we are no longer a mainstream fishing nation – but we are an island and we have plentiful supplies of fish if they are fished in a sustainable, careful and scientifically backed manner. My fear is that the Conservative government has made all sorts of commitments it cannot deliver. Far too little attention has been paid to how a negotiated outcome, which is vital, can be achieved with proper attention to this industry in the Withdrawal Agreement. It is not just what you catch but also what you leave behind, and some of the issues to do with the bycatch have not been addressed – again, this is a recipe for future conflict.

Fishing is not something I am directly responsible for in the Opposition DEFRA team, but I have listened very carefully to my colleague Luke Pollard, who has exposed some of the vacuum in the government’s approach and explained why fishing will be a real source of concern unless we take it much more seriously.

In addition, the quality of our seas and oceans will be crucial in how the British government takes forward our international obligations, specifically relating to climate change. Some of the worst aspects of the rise in temperatures will be seen in terms of the damage to marine life, the melting of the ice floes and the methane that will subsequently be released and the threat to low-lying countries and communities. I will make this one of my absolute priorities if re-elected, so that we get a radically different approach to how we envisage our future obligations in this area.

Richard Graham, Conservative - Gloucester

It is very concerning that the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. Nature is capable of extraordinary recovery, but we are pushing it to its limits. We know we must do more, such as restoring and reconnecting vital habitats, reintroducing species in areas where they have been driven away, and enhance protections for both wildlife and landscapes.

I recently supported a Conservative led 10 Minute Rule Bill proposing Net Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050. This is a radical step forward, as we must more than meet our national commitments under the Paris Agreement, as a sign of our continued commitment to climate action across the world. The deal will limit global temperature rises and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, which is vital for our long-term economic and global security. New, more ambitious commitments on decarbonising will, I hope, be agreed.

1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

I agree that tackling climate change is vital and we should plant more trees – I’ve been planting them all my life and will go on doing so all my life. That includes helping to plant trees as part of a green project with our city council and Wildlife Trust beside a new balancing pond by Elmbridge on the outskirts of Gloucester, now a wonderful addition to the nature of our city. I will go on doing my bit in Gloucester, through the Wildlife Trust and Gloucester City Homes creating a new mini-orchard in Podsmead, my exciting proposal for an Eco Park at our Recycling Centre, and a new arboretum above the Westgate Boating Pond.   

I’m delighted that the government will triple our tree-planting rates to add roughly 30 million extra trees a year, alongside restoring our natural peatlands which are such vital habitats and carbon sinks. The government is also establishing a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund to leave our environment in a better condition for the next generation. The Fund will be used to dramatically increase tree-planting rates in England with more research into the most appropriate species to plant across the country, a scaling up the nursery sector to grow the saplings, new partnerships with landowners, and increased planting rates on sites. I was also proud that we doubled our international climate funding to £11.6 billion at the last UN climate summit which will be spent on these natural solutions in developing countries, like forests and mangroves. Tackling climate change and restoring nature go hand in hand, and we need to address both at the same time.

Encouragingly, the Conservatives have also committed to introduce a Nature Recovery Network throughout England to protect, expand, enhance, and join up our most precious habitats. I fully support this and will be pushing for this to be implemented as soon as possible if re-elected.

2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

We must ensure our new agricultural policy rewards our farmers for the public goods they provide, such as protecting wildlife and restoring nature. The Government’s Agriculture Bill created the framework for such a scheme, and I voted in favour of it in the last Parliament.

72% of the total land area in the UK is actively farmed, so we cannot solve environmental challenges without the help of our farmers. Good environmental stewardship has benefits for agricultural productivity too, with insect pollination estimated to be valued at some £400 million a year in the UK by increasing yield, and the quality of seeds and fruit. The Agriculture Bill enables us to secure a strong domestic food supply, whilst protecting and restoring the natural environment. Some of the practices we could incentivise include: maintaining and expanding hedgerows, creating new ponds, planting wildflowers in the margins of arable fields, and increasing tree cover.

Currently, the Common Agricultural Policy is an environmentally damaging policy, therefore I strongly support our commitment to maintain overall funding for farmers throughout the next Parliament. This will allow them to make long-term plans for their business, while ensuring the new public goods scheme is properly funded.

3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

With 87% of the world’s marine fish stocks now fully exploited or depleted, it’s vital we sustainably manage our fisheries both to revive our marine environment and to safeguard the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.

Internationally, the UK has led the campaign to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, and in May, we designated 41 new Marine Conservation Zones–the most significant expansion of England’s ‘Blue Belt’ to date. The UK now has a total of 355 marine protected areas in waters around Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and I will continue to support this if re-elected as your MP.

We are also committing £7 million to expand the Blue Belt across the UK’s oversea territories, leading by example across the world. The Blue Belt, which are Marine Protected Areas in which key species like turtles, whales and seabirds can thrive, now covers our million square kilometres across the planet.

The government has announced it will establish a significant new £500m Blue Planet Fund to help protect our oceans, sharing our world-leading expertise to support developing countries to protect previous marine habitats and restore their potential to tackle climate change. The new fund over the next five years, will be focused on strengthening governance to protect marine environments, and strengthening science, research and innovation to help other countries protect the oceans that are so vital to all of us.

By 2050, there will sadly be more plastic than fish in our oceans, and that is completely unacceptable. Measures we have already introduced - like banning microbeads and the plastic bag tax - have had a significant impact, but more importantly it has changed the way we think about our relationship with plastics.

Locally in Gloucester, we have also made some progress. For example, dozens of businesses signing up to an initiative to reduce plastic waste, and 40 local businesses (cafes, coffee shops and restaurants) have recently signed up to the Refill Scheme, which promotes free tap water, to reduce the use of plastic bottles, and in turn plastic waste in our rivers and seas.

So, Britain is leading the way by investing in the protection of our natural environment and leading on the safeguarding of the world’s oceans. The government has shown its commitment to reaching net zero by 2050, through phasing out unabated coal, quadrupling renewable capacity since 2010, reducing emissions faster than any other G20 country and increasing the use of green energy. But, we must do more and faster.

Rt Hon Mark Harper, Conservative - Forest of Dean

1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

There is no denying the science – climate change is causing natural crises. As a result, it remains one of the most serious long-term threats that this country and the world faces.

Earlier this year, I was one of a number of Conservative MPs supporting my Gloucestershire colleague, Cheltenham’s MP Alex Chalk, as he introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill to Parliament mandating that the UK reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 - a target which the Government has now put into law.

The Government has introduced a new Environment Bill which will establish a new system of accountability by creating a world-leading environmental watchdog in the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), and enshrining Environmental Principles in law - embedding environmental values at the heart of government policy making, and creating a framework for setting legally-binding targets in four priority areas: air quality, water, biodiversity and resource efficiency and waste reduction.

I am particularly pleased that, against a background of significant house building across the country, the Bill will embed the principle of “environmental net gain” in the planning system to ensure that wildlife rich habitats are retained and restored.

Biodiversity supports ecosystem stability. Last year, I was very happy to welcome the then Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to the Forest of Dean for the release of two Beavers into Greathough Brook near Lydbrook. These Beavers will play an important role in creating habitats for many other plant, insect and mammal species to thrive, as well as reducing flooding.

Trees also play an integral role in reducing emissions by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and reducing the Greenhouse Effect.

That’s why the Conservatives are setting up a new £640 million Nature for Climate fund to help us increase tree planting in England and turn our degraded peatlands into crucial resources that can help to capture harmful emissions. We will also work with the Devolved Administrations to triple UK tree-planting rates to an additional 30,000 hectares every year – space for at least 30 million more trees.

In the constituency, I will continue to ensure our forests are well maintained by working with and supporting the team from the Forestry Commission. Over the summer, I spent time finding out about the good work they do on the Public Forest Estate (PFE). I talked to the Deputy Surveyor, Kevin Stannard, about some of the challenges and projects they have been dealing with.

I will always welcome opportunities to work with local stakeholders in the Forest of Dean to combat climate change.

2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

Last year, the Conservative Government launched a 25-year plan to improve the environment. The plans set out how a Conservative Government would work with the farming community and use Agri-tech to achieve properly implemented precision farming, resource efficiency, and better livestock and crop management for more effective sustainable productivity growth.

The 25-year environment plan also discuss the introduction of a new environmental land management system to deliver environmental enhancement. The land use system will incentivise and reward land managers to restore and improve our natural capital and rural heritage. It will also provide support for farmers and land managers as we move towards a more effective application of the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been one of the main drivers of land use and management over the last 45 years, and has caused significant environmental damage. As we deliver Brexit, we can put environmental policy at the heart of England’s farming and agricultural policy.

I have always backed British farming both in Parliament and in the Forest of Dean by regularly meeting with our local NFU teams to discuss a range of national and local issues. If re-elected, I will continue to talk to local farmers to support them in the overall adoption of long-term sustainable land management practices.

3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

Under the Conservatives, the UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean.

In May 2019, we designated 41 new Marine Conservation Zones – the most significant expansion of England’s ‘Blue Belt’ to date. The UK now has a total of 355 marine protected areas – nearly twice the size of England.

But we know there is more to do - urgent action is needed to tackle plastic pollution, overfishing and climate change, which are causing significant harm to the world’s marine environments and putting certain species at risk of extinction.

To combat this Conservatives will establish a significant new £500 million Blue Planet Fund to help protect our oceans, sharing our world-leading expertise to support developing countries to protect previous marine habitats and restore their potential to tackle climate change.

The new fund will strengthen governance, institutional capability and regulations in developing countries – improving surveillance and enforcement - to ensure protection of our most vital marine ecosystems. By using UK satellite technology to monitor marine environments and ensure that Marine Protected Areas are not subject to illegal fishing.

If re-elected, I will continue to support the excellent work that our Party has been doing to protect our oceans. 

Thank you for writing to me.

Alan Mackenzie, Labour - The Cotswolds

1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

For a start I support The Cotswolds being designated a national park to provide greater protection for this special and unique area.

This also supports the Cotswolds AONB management plan 2018-2023. I will want to meet on a regular basis groups like yours so that I have an up to date understanding of events within the countryside. I will campaign for greater funding to protect and preserve our natural environment with my own belief of action now not later on the environment.  From the party key point from the Manifesto are:

We will introduce a Climate and Environment Emergency Bill setting out in law robust, binding new standards for decarbonisation, nature recovery, environmental quality and habitats and species protection.

Our Plan for Nature will set legally binding targets to drive the restoration of species and habitats. We will embark on an ambitious programme of tree planting, with both forestry and native woodland species.

2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

I will hold regular meetings with the NFU and local farmers to understand from them what is needed. Our polices are one part of the restoration process and it's important to engage with all groups involved. I will act on their concerns and, if needed, work with them to create polices to ensure we are contributing to the recovery of our local countryside and land while ensuring full support is given to land owners. 

3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas

One of the biggest threats to our seas is plastic and I will work on bottle return schemes as well as campaign to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our seas and oceans. I will focus on recycling to ensure we reduce the plastic going in our seas. As we do this we will engage with local groups ensuring we listen to concerns and act accordingly to ensure we all benefit.

I believe we need to do a lot more work on our countryside and the environment and this will be done with greater efficiency if we work together.

Chris McFarling, Green Party - Forest of Dean

1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

Personally

I am a naturalist. I have worked with wildlife most of my life. The reason I am standing is to protect wildlife and give it the voice it needs in the corridors of power. I worked in the Galapagos Islands Biosphere Reserve and the Ecuadorian Amazon in the 1980s. I have worked with the BBC Natural History Unit on many David Attenborough programmes. I have worked with communities to help restore respect and wonder for the natural environment.

I co-founded the Galapagos Conservation Trust UK.

I was the first ever Green councillor elected onto the Forest of Dean District Council (FoDDC).

I was the Forest of Dean District Council cabinet lead on wildlife and the environment. I proposed the motion to declare the climate emergency – the first rural council to do so. I am the current district council cabinet lead on planning policy and the climate emergency.

I was chosen as chairman of the programme board of the Foresters' Forest Landscape Partnership Scheme. I was one of the first volunteers to join the team (2012) to develop the application to the HLF to actively protect the natural, cultural and built heritage of the Dean.  I have actively worked on the batscapes, woodland flora and hedgerow survey projects and many litter picks.

I was the originator of the initiative to designate the Forest of Dean a Biosphere Reserve. Working with the Forest Economic Partnership and the Office for National Statistics to prove the economic case for this UNESCO accolade. I am currently part of the action group pro-actively bidding for funding to consult with prospective partners and local communities and further develop this opportunity to support the flourishing of wildlife and protected species, and the wise use of natural and human resources.

My record for wildlife protection speaks for itself.

The Green Party

We have a plan to transform and reconnect with the countryside, some key points from our general election 2019 manifesto include:

- Create a new ‘ecocide’ law to prevent crimes against the natural environment. 

- Amend the National Planning Policy Framework so it no longer imposes centrally set development targets on local councils. Councils will be required to deliver these new homes in a way that preserves local ecology and creates new green spaces.

- Strengthen Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest protections, with development in these areas only being permitted in exceptional circumstances.

- Ban mineral extraction, road building and military training from all National Parks. We will give local communities a say in National Park governance, though creating new democratically elected positions on National Park boards.

- Open up car-free access to the National Parks with new cycling, walking and bus links.

- Encourage applications from communities for new Green Belt, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Park designations.

- Create a new Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). This will be one integrated body to enforce environmental protections, from clean air to litter-free roads. The EPC will enforce the ecocide law, a new Clean Air Act, which will set new air quality standards for the UK, and a new Sustainable Economy Act, including targets for new soil quality and biodiversity standards.

- Develop a soil health monitoring programme for England, to match those in Scotland and Wales, to assess and understand changes in the health of soil over time.

- Increase funding for the Environment Agency and Natural England, to support the vital work they do to protect our environment.

- Immediately ban the most harmful pesticides (including glyphosate) and introduce new rigorous tests for pesticides. Only pesticides that pass this test, and demonstrably don’t harm bees, butterflies and other wildlife, will be approved for use in UK.

- Invest in peatland restoration and end both the burning of peatlands and use of peat in compost in horticulture. We will advocate an emergency international agreement to conserve and enhance carbon sinks and reservoirs including forests, peat fields and coastal and estuarine areas.

 2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

Our Green New Deal for food, farming & forestry will:

- Work with farmers to refocus farm subsidies to help farmers transition to more sustainable, diverse and environmentally friendly forms of land use, including organic farming, agroforestry and mixed farming, and away from intensive livestock farming.

- Provide farmers with grants to allow replacement of old high carbon emission farming machinery with low carbon machinery (including vehicles powered by bio fuels rather than fossil fuels). Grants will also be available to enable further improvements to farm buildings and infrastructure, to help farmers in the transition to agroecological farming.

- Encourage the expansion and replanting of majority of hedgerows lost in the last 50 years through new subsidies, creating new environments for wildlife.

- Legislate to give farmers greater security of tenure, so that they can invest in sustainable improvements to their land, whilst ending the use of land as a tax shelter and encouraging new entrants into farming.

- Introduce new support for smalls scale family farms and for new entrants to farming. This support, including increased security of tenure for farmers, will help develop sustainable farming methods. Farmers will be supported to adopt diverse uses for agricultural land and buildings, such as fitting solar panels on farm buildings and planting orchards and other woodland. The incorporation of trees into farming will provide new crops such as fruits and nuts, as well as timber, linking forestry and farming industries. A more densely wooded and hedged farming landscape will provide new habitats for wildlife, and sanctuaries for threatened species.

- Create thousands of new jobs in rural areas, through the shift away from intensive farming towards smaller-scale, more people focused food production and land management that respects nature. We will invest in training and skills to help people develop and apply the skills needed in these new jobs.

- Better connect rural communities through reliable broadband and mobile internet, delivered through councils who understand local connection needs.

- Reduce pesticide and fungicide use by at least 50% by overall weight by 2022, phase out all non-agricultural uses of pesticides, and immediately ban the most harmful substances. We will secure protection of rural residents and communities from exposure to pesticides sprayed on nearby crop fields and prohibit the use of pesticides in the locality of homes, schools and children’s playgrounds. We will strengthen the role of independent scientific advice and the application of the precautionary principle in the pesticide regulation and monitoring process – only pesticides that pass strict tests, and demonstrably don’t harm bees, butterflies and other wildlife, will be approved for use in the UK. We will also reduce the amount of nitrogen fertiliser used on UK farms.

- Plant 700 million new trees and aim for 50% of all farms to be engaged in agroforestry by 2030. We will encourage the planting of more trees in more towns and cities, including fruit, nut and other crop trees than can produce food. The new woodland, when fully grown, will store carbon, provide home-grown timber and create new wildlife-rich environments. We will support farmers to diversify their incomes through new forest management.

- Encourage, through changes to the planning system, the ‘rewilding’ of spaces to provide new habitats for wildlife. An ecological crisis is happening – we must tackle it by restoring, expanding and joining up the wild spaces nature needs to thrive.

- Maintain a moratorium on production and import of genetically modified (GM) foods, including food from animals fed on GM feed.

- Establish a Food and Agriculture Research Council to research sustainable and health-promoting methods of food production and distribution. We will also support research into the reduction of methane emissions from livestock and the conservation and development of high quality soils, as the foundation of all that we grow.

- Encourage urban food growing, including new community farms and allotments, through the planning system, as well as matching those with gardens and who want to grow food with those with the skills to undertake the work for communal benefit. Similarly we will encourage the creation of new green spaces wherever they can take root – from pocket parks on vacant land, to living green roofs and walls. We will also encourage urban gardeners to plan for wildlife – opting for grass and shrubs over paving in a garden can create vital new habitats for wildlife.

- Incentivise changes in food consumption, by promoting the benefits of healthy diets, based on locally and sustainably produced food, and ‘less but better’ meat and dairy consumption, including clear labelling to indicate carbon emissions, high animal welfare and intensive production methods.

- Support the transition to plant based diets by phasing in a tax on meat and dairy products over the next ten years, to reduce the 5% of the UK’s carbon emissions that come from the methane produced by livestock. The revenues from this part of the Carbon Tax will be recycled back into farming, and will be spent on measures to help farmers transition to more sustainable farming methods.

- Promote initiatives to reduce food waste, including education programmes and changing the rules to allow food waste to be used for animal feed for pigs and chickens.

- Launch a public information campaign to educate the public about the biodiversity loss and other Climate Emergency threats we face, and encourage the behaviour change needed in response.

These reforms will integrate closely with the proposals set out in the ‘Restoring our nature and countryside’ section.

Within the EU we will champion reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, so that it promotes more sustainable farming methods.

3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

Personally:

As the FoDDC representative on the Severn Estuary Partnership I have taken a keen interest in estuarine protection and development. I want to consider the inclusion of the upper Severn estuary and vale in the Biosphere designation area to include wildfowl and estuarine fish in that protection. I have supported the development of the Foresters' Forest eel and lamprey pass at Blakeney Weir and am keen to involve myself with improving access for salmon to their ancient spawning grounds in the Forest of Dean.

Whilst working in the oceans of the world as a diving expedition leader and as part of the NHU film production team, I have witnessed many harrowing sights of plastic pollution – from plastic crate ties around sea lions, to turtle deaths through plastic ingestion, and albatross chicks few plastic cigarette lighters.

I agree with Sir David that plastic is a material that we must stop producing, and fund research into ways of removing it from our environment as well as producing alternatives that degrade naturally. If we learnt how to make it, surely we can learn how to unmake it.

If elected, I would challenge the constituency, county and country, to go plastic free by 2030; an ambitious deadline befitting the seriousness of the problem.

The Green Party

- Commit to making at least 30% of UK domestic waters into fully protected marine protected areas by 2030. We will also work with British Overseas Territories (BOTs) to increase the ‘blue belt’ protecting BOT waters from commercial extraction, from the current 32% of coverage to 50%.

- We will press for a review of the Common Fisheries Policy in order to increase its sustainability.

- Champion a treaty which establishes the Arctic, Antarctic and Amazon as World Nature Reserves. In these new reserves, commercial exploitation of natural resources would be banned and the rights of indigenous populations protected.

I acknowledge that these are long and comprehensive responses to your questions and I hope you have room on your website to publish them. I make no apologies for the length of my responses – our wildlife is in danger, our beautiful natural world is fast disappearing as our activities and pollution combine with increasing climate change to degrade and destroy ecosystems. We need to do everything we can to save our wildlife before we lose it.

I stand for election to protect wildlife and the natural world we so depend upon for our survival. I always will.

Rebecca Trimnell, Liberal Democrat - Gloucester

1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

We will protect the natural environment and reverse biodiversity loss at the same time as combating climate change. We will do this in the following ways: 

• Introduce a Nature Act to restore the natural environment through setting legally binding near-term and long-term targets for improving water, air, soil and biodiversity, and supported by funding streams of at least £18 billion over five years.

• Combat climate change, and benefit nature and people by coordinating the planting of 60 million trees a year and introducing requirements for the greater use of sustainably harvested wood in construction.

• Invest in large scale restoration of peatlands, heathland, native woodlands, saltmarshes, wetlands and coastal waters, helping to absorb carbon, protect against floods, improve water quality and protect habitats, including through piloting ‘rewilding’ approaches.

2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

Unsustainable farming practices are depleting the soil and, together with air and water pollution, contributing to a rapid decline in the numbers of insects, birds and other animals with one in seven UK species are at risk of extinction.

We will: 

• Reduce basic agricultural support payments to the larger recipients and redeploy the savings to support the public goods that come from effective land management, including restoring nature and protecting the countryside, preventing flooding and combating climate change through measures to increase soil carbon and expand native woodland.

• Support producers by broadening the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator and supporting them with access to markets.

• Increase the budget for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, ensuring that agencies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency are properly funded.

3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

Our oceans are under threat. Plastic is having a devastating effect on our seas and destroying our marine life. 

We will: 

•  Commit to a plastic-free charter to eradicate unnecessary plastic waste from Government Departments and set an example to businesses and consumers.

• Tackle our throw-away culture by providing incentives for reuse and recycling, including a plastic bottle return scheme and a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups.

• Encourage businesses to reduce plastic packaging and introduce plastic free aisles in supermarkets.

• Work closely with other countries to find global solutions to tackle the crisis of ocean pollution. 

• Invest in research and development into non plastic alternative materials which are cost effective and sustainable in the long-term. 

Max Wilkinson, Liberal Democrat – Cheltenham

1. How will you and your party act decisively to tackle the crises in the natural environment?

A healthy natural environment, where people breathe clean air, drink clean water and enjoy the beauty of the natural world, lies at the heart of the society and the economy Liberal Democrats want to create. We will introduce a Nature Act to restore the natural environment through setting legally binding near-term and long-term targets for improving water, air, soil and biodiversity, and supported by funding streams of at least £18 billion over five years. We will combat climate change, and benefit nature and people by coordinating the planting of 60 million trees a year and introducing requirements for the greater use of sustainably harvested wood in construction. And we will invest in large scale restoration of peatlands, heathland, native woodlands, saltmarshes, wetlands and coastal waters, helping to absorb carbon, protect against floods, improve water quality and protect habitats, including through piloting rewilding approaches.

 

2. What will you do to ensure we have farming policies that support land managers in contributing to nature’s recovery?

We will support farmers to protect and restore the natural environment alongside their critical roles in producing food, providing employment and promoting tourism, leisure and health and wellbeing. We want to reduce basic agricultural support payments to the larger recipients and redeploy the savings to support the public goods that come from effective land management, including restoring nature and protecting the countryside, preventing flooding and combating climate change through measures to increase soil carbon and expand native woodland.

 

3. What will you do to ensure we protect and revive our seas?

We want to establish a ‘blue belt’ of marine protected areas covering at least 50 per cent of UK waters by 2030, in partnership with UK overseas territories. We will also create a new ‘British Overseas Ecosystems Fund’ for large-scale environmental restoration projects in the UK Overseas Territories and sovereign bases, home to 94 per cent of our unique wildlife, much of it in a marine environment. Internationally we will argue for ambitious new legally binding international targets to protect global biodiversity, and an effective global oceans treaty to create a network of ocean sanctuaries.