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Natural Environment White Paper

The government has today announced ambitious new plans to help protect and improve England’s natural environment.

The plans are contained in
‘The Natural Choice’external link, the first White Paper on the natural environment in 20 years, and are directly linked to the groundbreaking research in the National Ecosystem Assessment published last week that showed the strong economic arguments for safeguarding and enhancing the natural environment.

The White Paper also acts on the recommendations of ‘Making Space for Nature’external link (PDF), a report into the state of England’s wildlife sites, led by Professor John Lawton and published in September 2010, which showed that England’s wildlife sites are fragmented and vulnerable to change.

Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England welcomed today’s announcement: “For decades the natural world has been seriously undervalued - habitats have been lost and species have continued to decline. This cannot be regarded as a matter of passing regret and the loss of natural capital has real implications for our economy and for people’s health and well-being.

It is clear that we need to think big – tackling environmental problems at a scale that can make a genuine impact and involving all sectors of society in developing solutions, from Big Society through to big business. The White Paper sets an ambitious direction for environmental policy for the next half century and presents a real opportunity to change the way we think about the natural environment and the role it plays in our lives.”

Key measures in the White Paper, which also takes forward recommendations contained in ‘Making Space for Nature’, include:

Reconnecting nature

  • New Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs), transforming rural and urban areas and providing bigger, connected sites for wildlife to live in and adapt to climate change.
  • Biodiversity offsetting – new way for developers to ensure we don’t lose wildlife sites and make them better by making and improving other sites.
  • New Local Nature Partnerships to strengthen joined-up action across local agencies and organisations,
  • Phasing out peat - working with the horticulture industry to phase out peat use, which will help to protect and restore our peatlands, which are valuable carbon sinks, habitats and part of our ecological network.

Connecting people and nature for better quality of life

  • Green Areas Designation allowing local communities to give protection to areas that are important to them for recreation, the view or their importance for wildlife.
  • Better urban green spaces for the benefit of cities and towns. Support for parks, gardens, and tree planting which benefit people and nature alike
  • More children experiencing nature by learning outdoors, through practical support to schools and reducing red-tape for outdoor learning.
  • Strengthening local public health activities which connect people with nature for better health
  • A new environmental volunteering initiative (“Muck in 4 Life”) to improve places in towns and countryside for people and nature to enjoy.

Capturing and improving the value of nature

  • Natural Capital Committee – an independent body to report to the Government’s economic affairs committee to put the value of nature at the heart of the Government’s economic thinking, and advise Government about the best way of securing our natural assets for the future.
  • An annual statement of green accounts for UK Plc to help measure green growth alongside GDP.
  • A business-led Task Force to expand the UK business opportunities from new products and services which are good for the economy and nature alike.

To accompany the launch of ‘The Natural Choice’, Natural England has today published ThinkBIG: How and why landscape-scale conservation benefits wildlife, people and the wider economyexternal link.

This report, produced on behalf of the England Biodiversity Group, explains the reasons for adopting a landscape-scale approach to nature conservation and highlights the wider economic and social benefits (known as ecosystem services) that this approach can provide. The report provides information relevant to local authorities, land managers, farmers, and local communities, in support of the Government’s aspirations around landscape scale conservation.

Natural England have also joined forces with the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission to issue the following joint statement: (105kb)pdf document, underlining the determination of the three agencies to work together to deliver the ambitious proposals set out in “The Natural Choice” White Paper.

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