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WWF - “No More Harm to Nature”: Public calls for urgent change following pioneering Citizen's Assembly
The first ever UK-wide citizens’ assembly for nature has published its recommendations for renewing and protecting our natural environment, calling for urgent and immediate action from every part of society.
- The People’s Plan for Nature sets out the public’s recommendations for reversing shocking declines in nature
- 100-strong assembly brought together to agree shared vision on how to renew and protect nature here at home
- Plan calls for access to nature as a human right, the urgent restoration of our rivers, transparency from supermarkets and a cross-party commitment to farming for nature
- Innovative process also involved 30,000 contributions from the public
- Assembly members say plan ‘must inject urgency’ into leaders and organisations at all levels
- People encouraged to add their voice at peoplesplanfornature.org
Decades of damage have pushed wildlife and habitats to the brink. Thirty-eight million birds have vanished from our skies in the last 50 years, and 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost since the Second World War. Experts believe that only 5% of UK land is effectively protected for nature.
Now, the People’s Plan for Nature aims to turn the tide by challenging governments, businesses, charities, communities, and individuals with a public demand for immediate and sweeping change.
The plan calls for a fundamental change in how we value nature in the UK, including making sure nature is included in all levels of decision-making. It says there must be ‘no more harm to nature’ and demands stronger legislation and clear targets.
Among the top calls to action are:
- All commercial and policy decisions to take into account potential impacts on nature
- An overhaul of current farming subsidy systems to prioritise sustainable and nature-friendly farming
- Greater government accountability through a permanent Assembly for Nature made up of NGOs, industry and public expertise
The plan is the result of several months of discussions by members of the public via a unique citizen engagement process. It included an open call for ideas on how to save nature, which received 30,000 responses, and a citizens’ assembly made up of 100 people from all four nations of the UK and all walks of life. The assembly came together to review evidence on the state of nature and find common ground on the action needed to reverse the shocking declines.
The citizens’ assembly was run independently by Involve, an organisation that develops new ways to involve people in decisions that affect their lives, and the Sortition Foundation, who specialise in selecting participants to take part in these kinds of events. An independent panel with representatives drawn from different sectors provided input to ensure the process was fair, balanced and well-informed. It was convened by the National Trust, the RSPB and WWF to give the public a clear say on how to solve the nature crisis.
Other calls to action include:
- Access to nature to be recognised as a human right.
- A universal quality standard label in supermarkets showing the source and nature impact of products to help consumers make nature-friendly choices.
- The urgent restoration of all rivers and wetlands, investment in wastewater infrastructure, and the establishment of Marine National Parks.
- Cross-party commitment to future farming practices that help nature, and incentives for farmers to farm sustainably and help them through this transition.
- A national conversation on how and why we should change our diet to support nature, and food hubs to help people access local produce.
Daniel, a 33-year-old project manager for a research institution from Norwich, who took part in the assembly, said:
“As nature does not have its own voice, I realise it is so important to have a citizens’ assembly. The People’s Plan for Nature should be used as a handbook, to support projects to renew nature, as the plan was written by its citizens who encourage these projects.
“The People’s Plan for Nature must inject urgency from policy makers, businesses, local government, individuals, and communities to do much more to renew nature, as collective action is now our only hope to improve biodiversity in the UK.”
Pauline from Queensferry, Scotland, another assembly member, said:
“It's been phenomenal what I've learned. It's my generation that’s done the damage. So I kind of thought of this as something only younger people were interested in.
“What I've taken away from it is that I can make a change, too. We all can. It’s a very diverse group but this is our collective view and our voice and our opinion. And I hope that the diversity of views can be used to focus the people in power, whoever they are, at whatever level they are.”
Over the course of four weekends between November and February, assembly members listened to evidence on UK nature restoration, food systems, mental health, access to nature, fishing and agriculture. They heard from a range of world-leading experts, including academics, farmers, supermarkets, local authorities and water companies, and a range of viewpoints.
The assembly now hopes to create a groundswell of support and is calling for people to back the People’s Plan for Nature by adding their voice at peoplesplanfornature.org. Governments, businesses, communities and charities are also being urged to respond to the recommendations to deliver transformative change.
Claire, from Northern Ireland, said:
“I'm not into nature for nature’s sake. I'm a doctor. I care about people. And the scientific information and the courses that I've done have shown me how important nature is for people's health. I’d like to see nature improved so that it would improve our lives.”
Jodi, a carer from Swansea, Wales, said:
“Clean water, clean seas, rivers - I think that's a major thing. I’ve always tried not to damage things purposely, but I’ve not really cared enough. For the future, I hope to be able to go sea swimming all the time, in water that’s not polluted and dangerous. And to drink clean water and eat food that's not got chemicals in it. And I want my son to get to do the same things.”
Fawad, a 20-year-old student living in Manchester, said:
“Being a part of the People’s Assembly was a really cool and unique experience. We had the rare opportunity to engage in discussions with people from across the UK who we might otherwise have never even come across, let alone speak to, which was really interesting and special. By the end, we all came together with shared conclusions to the plan, and the resulting camaraderie created a really hopeful space.”
Professor Nathalie Seddon of the University of Oxford, one of the assembly’s academic leads, said:
“The People’s Plan for Nature is a roadmap to help us get from where we are now, living in a highly degraded nature-depleted country, to where we need to be, empowered and living as part of flourishing landscapes, seascapes and cities, healthier, happier and re-connected with nature.
“I was impressed by the rigour of the process, the spirit of collaboration and openness among a very diverse group of Assembly members, and the quality of their discussions and questions. I think that the Assembly has come up with a really compelling set of critical actions to restore the vitality of our environment.
“The experience left me feeling hopeful for the future of UK nature as well as for nature in general; there’s a good chance that if we get things right here, other places will be inspired to do the same.”
Sarah Castell, Chief Executive Officer of Involve, said:
"The People's Plan for Nature shows how the public can take a lead in tackling the big challenges of our time. A modern, healthy democracy needs to place people at the heart of decisions about our future. Involve are proud to have supported people from all four nations of the UK to find a way to protect and restore nature; those in power should listen to their recommendations and take action."
The assembly is encouraging people to read the People’s Plan for Nature in full at peoplesplanfornature.org and to add their voice in support of the plan.
A copy of the executive summary of People’s Plan for Nature can be downloaded here. The full report is available on request and will be published on peoplesplanfornature.org on 23 March.
High-res photographs of the assembly meetings and assembly members, and general library images of nature. All credited Involve/Jemima Stubbs.
Broadcast quality b-roll, featuring general views of the assembly meetings, interviews with assembly members and with experts:
90-second hero film can be downloaded here
All assets are for editorial use only, and only in relation to the People’s Plan for Nature. Please credit assets as indicated in the captions.
Jon Alexander of New Citizenship Project, who designed the overarching strategic framework for the project, said: "The People's Plan for Nature represents a bold and courageous new approach from the UK's major conservation NGOs. Drawing on inspiration from emerging best practice around the world, they have supported the people of the UK to develop their recommendations for what needs to happen to protect British nature - instead of the usual approach of NGOs rallying people behind them. This is truly the people's agenda. These NGOs committed to responding to its outputs without knowing what they would be; the challenge to national and local governments is to match that courage, and make the changes this deeply democratic process demands."
Professor Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen, another of the assembly’s academic leads, said: “I was really proud the have been one of the academic leads for this assembly. The level of engagement among participants was awesome, and the quality of discussions was extremely high. The call to action the participants have come up with are profound, and set a challenge to government and others to do more for nature and to act with more urgency.”
Notes to editors
 Between 30 September and 30 October 2022, members of the public from across the four nations of the UK contributed nearly 30,000 responses to an open call for ideas and stories. People were asked to respond to three questions:
- What do you love about nature in the UK? What would you miss if it disappeared?
- Imagine it's 2050 and nature in the UK is thriving. What is different from now?
- What exciting examples have you seen of people working together to restore and protect nature in the UK?
Responses were invited via social media and gathered on a website, as well as through interactive installations at 74 locations across the four nations.
 Since 1970, over 40% of UK species populations have declined. [Source: State of Nature Report 2019. Note - 48% for Scotland.]
Only 5% of our land is effectively protected for nature. [Source: RSPB]
38 million birds have vanished from our skies in the last 50 years. [Source: RSPB State of UK Nature report]
Wildflower meadows have declined by 97% since the Second World War [Source: Plantlife]
 Assembly participants were recruited through a selection process undertaken by the Sortition Foundation to reflect the diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints of the UK population.
 The Advisory Group was an integral part of making sure the People’s Assembly is a fair, balanced and well-informed process. The members of the Panel were selected for their technical expertise and their diverse experiences, as well as to challenge accepted views and oversee an independent, robust and democratic design process. Who is in the Advisory Group? | People's Plan for Nature (peoplesplanfornature.org)
 The academic leads for nature, climate and food systems were chosen as expert, highly qualified, well-respected and independent scientific researchers with deep knowledge and understanding of each of the topic areas, along with the ability to make science accessible to the public.
Academic Lead: Nature and Climate: Professor Nathalie Seddon, Professor of Biodiversity, University of Oxford. Nathalie Seddon is Professor of Biodiversity and Founding Director of the Nature-based Solutions Initiative in the Department of Biology at the University of Oxford. She is also Director of the Agile Initiative and co-lead of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery.
Academic Lead: Climate/Soil /Agriculture: Professor Pete Smith, Professor of Soils and Global Change, University of Aberdeen. Pete Smith is Professor of Soils and Global Change at the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland, UK) and Science Director of the Scottish Climate Change Centre of Expertise (ClimateXChange). His interests include climate change mitigation, soils, agriculture, food systems, ecosystem services modelling and nature-based solutions.
Involve is the UK’s leading public participation charity. We develop, support and campaign for new ways to involve people in decisions that affect their lives. Since 2003, we have been working with governments, parliaments, civil society, academics and the public to create and deliver new forms of public participation that re-vitalise democracy and improve decision-making.
About Sortition Foundation
Sortition Foundation is the only organisation globally that specialises in recruitment and stratified selection for deliberative processes. Sortition is a not-for-profit organisation and exists to promote and support this methodology and its good practice.
About New Citizenship Project
New Citizenship Project is a strategy and innovation consultancy driven by the belief that, given the right opportunity, people can and will shape the things that matter to them for the better. Its mission is to catalyse a shift to a more participatory, citizen-led society. Since 2014, New Citizenship Project has worked with all types of organisations to create participatory strategies, cultures and projects that invite people to step into their power as citizens.
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