Natural Environment White Paper Published

England’s natural environment will be better protected, restored and improved under ambitious new plans published by Defra today. The proposals set out a programme of action to repair damage done to the environment, and urges everyone to get involved in helping nature to flourish at all levels – from neighbourhoods to national parks.

The plans are contained in The Natural Choice, the first White Paper on the natural environment in 20 years, and are directly linked to the groundbreaking research in the National Ecosystem Assessment that shows the strong economic arguments for safeguarding and enhancing the natural environment.

River Arun in flood

Photo: Fran Southgate

The White Paper also acts on recommendations in Making Space for Nature, a report into the state of England’s wildlife sites published in September 2010, which showed that England’s wildlife sites are fragmented and not able to respond to the pressures we put on our land or climate change.

Launching The Natural Choice, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:
The natural environment matters to us all – not just because it makes us feel good, but because we are now all able to see the terrible price we would pay if we lost what we have or neglected to care for it. Nature belongs to us all, and we’ve all got a vested interest in protecting it.

That’s why the true value of nature should be built in to the decisions we make – as individuals, organisations, businesses and governments – so that we become the first generation to leave the environment in a better condition than we found it.

foraging bumblebee

Photo: Sussex Wildlife Trust

Measures in the White Paper include:

  • Nature Improvement Areas, transforming rural and urban areas and providing bigger, connected sites for wildlife to live in and adapt to climate change. With a £7.5 million fund for 12 initial areas to demonstrate just what can be done.
  • Green Areas Designation allowing local communities to give protection to areas important to them for recreation, landscape or importance for wildlife.
  • More children experiencing nature by learning outdoors, through practical support to schools and reducing red-tape for outdoor learning.
  • An annual statement of green accounts for UK Plc – showing where our economy has withdrawn from the value of nature’s bank balance, and where we have invested in it. This will help measure green growth alongside GDP.

In the past we have undervalued what our natural environment gives us, Caroline Spelman added. This White Paper changes that, because we cannot afford to make the same mistakes again. We can all gain from the economic, social, and health benefits nature gives us, but we need to recognise that we’ve got to put something back in to ensure that the environment has a healthy balance and a secure future.

What I’d really like to see happening as a result of this White Paper is more children enjoying nature and continuing that interest into adulthood, so that they pass that passion for the environment down through the generations. That would be a legacy well worth leaving.

A Snapshot of Biodiversity Conservation in Sussex

To coincide with the release of the Natural Environment White Paper, we have produced A Snapshot of Biodiversity Conservation in Sussex