Its their turn to #DefendNature LAWS that defend the nature we love!
Environment Ministers from across the EU have sent a clear signal that the Nature Directives are vital and should be properly implemented, not weakened, and now we need our MEPs to do the same.
In the first week of February the whole European Parliament will vote on a key report on what still needs to be done to halt and reverse the loss of our wildlife by 2020. It’s the same topic that UK Environment Minister Rory Stewart went to discuss with other countries’ Ministers in December.
This is our MEPs’ first opportunity to stand up for the Nature Directives – legislation vital to the protection of vulnerable habitats and species – and a crucial moment to send a crystal clear political message that they will defend the laws that protect our wildlife too.
RSPB have set up a quick and straightforward action to help you e-mail your MEPs. Email your MEP here
Today I am delighted to welcome Gill Moore from the Friends of North Kent Marshes – a local campaign group – to talk about why the Nature Directives are so important to her local community, and the special places they love. Gill is pictured below (on the right) with former MP Mark Reckless and another of the driving forces behind FONKM, Joan Darwell. Together with George Crozer, Gill and Joan have formed a formidable team.
The Greater Thames Estuary is protected under local, national and international law – with the Nature Directives being the strongest laws of all. It is a spectacular wetland of global importance, extremely rich in wildlife. There are tens of thousands of birds that live here, as well as hundreds of thousands of overwintering and migratory birds that travel here annually along the East Atlantic flyway from as far away as the Arctic in the North and Africa in the South.
Set in a landscape that inspired Charles Dickens to write the opening scene of his novel ‘Great Expectations’ is RSPB Cliffe Pools. The reserve contains 10% of the UK’s saline lagoons, a very rare habitat, where you can watch huge flocks of thousands of birds such as dunlin and black-tailed godwits as they wheel in the skies. The grasslands are great places to watch marsh harriers, merlins, peregrines and owls hunting. In spring you can listen to the song of the nightingale and the call of the cuckoo. These protected habitats are vitally important for lots of other wildlife too, such as harbour porpoise, harbour seals, grey seals, bottlenose dolphins, sea horses, rare bumblebees, the scarce emerald damsel fly and the water vole.
We are passionate about the wild places on our doorstep, and determined that they will be protected for future generations. For the North Kent Marshes, and for many other internationally important wildlife sites across Europe, that protection is delivered by the Directives. We are keenly aware of the strength of the EU Nature Directives and why that strength must be upheld, because we have witnessed first-hand their ability to protect the wildlife and habitats we hold dear. These laws were instrumental in stopping an airport at Cliffe in 2003 and, more recently, in September 2014, when the UK Airports Commission ruled out building an airport anywhere in the Greater Thames Estuary or on the Hoo Peninsula.
Indeed, when Sir Howard Davies delivered the Airports Commission Final Report on the 1st July this year he said that a Thames estuary airport ‘was not a plausible option’that ‘there was a whole series of reasons why an estuary airport simply did not stack up’ and that‘there were very serious environmental obstacles to constructing an airport in the Thames estuary. There are important breeding sites for birds, you would have to provide an alternative to them. The European Directives say that you can only take away that habitat if it’s the only place you can build an airport and we don’t think we could claim that that was the case’
We were appalled when EU President Juncker said the Nature Directives were old and must be “overhauled and modernised”, because alongside many experts we felt this would simply lead to them being weakened. The fact is that the Nature Directives form the very foundation of modern nature conservation, and politicians should not be trying to weaken them. Instead, they should be celebrating what they have achieved, and focussing on what they can achieve in the future.
Any weakening of these laws could put our most important wildlife sites in the Thames, Medway and Swale estuaries in peril. The Nature Directives are in place to protect our world class natural heritage and we must not sit idly by and allow this protection to be eroded. If it were it would be an ecological catastrophe!
We urge everyone to respond to this important consultation to show massive support for these nature laws. It is imperative that we do this now, because without strong laws to protect it – your nature, our nature, our children’s nature, could all be gone in the blink of an eye.
The strongest laws we have to protect our UK wildlife are still under threat! European leaders are considering rolling back decades of progress by revising the Directives in the mistaken belief that weaker protection for wildlife is good for business. In reality, this would be bad for business, and a disaster for wildlife.
Be aware that when writing this blog our government are NOT one of the nine other European countries who have written to the commission expressing concern over weakening of the birds and habitats directives to make them more business friendly. Remember a few years ago George Osborne called the directives GOLD PLATED saying they stood in the way of development.
Special Protection Areas (SPA’s) are fundamental to the Birds and Habitats Directives. Our SPA’s are vital to the survival of the North Kent Marshes, the Greater Thames , Medway and Swale Estuaries, our communities and our way of life…
We urgently need you to send a personal message to your MP, saying you care and asking them to call on the UK Government – represented on the EU Environment Council by Biodiversity Minister Rory Stewart – to defend the Nature Directives
RSPB Chief Executive Mike Clarke writes…
This week marked an important moment in our Defend Nature campaign.
At a meeting of EU Environment Ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, nine countries including France, Germany and Spain, spoke up clearly in support of the EU Nature Directives in a letter to Karmenu Vella, EU Environment Commissioner.
In the letter, the authors advise that the Nature Directives are ‘an essential component of biodiversity conservation in Europe’ and recommend that the Nature Directives be kept as they are with a focus on putting them into practice and enforcing them in full.
This is a significant intervention in the fight to save the Nature Directives. Such a statement from Germany alone would be influential but, collectively, the signatories are a major barrier to attempts to introduce new legislation to replace the Nature Directives.
It is a moment that has been building for many months and is a direct result of the public support from the 520,000+ citizens across Europe who responded to the public consultation on the Nature Directives through the joint NGO campaign, Nature Alert (Defend Nature in the UK). This overwhelming show of support took key decision-makers by surprise and created the ‘public voice’ for Member State governments like Germany to show leadership on the natural environment.
I know many of you will have been amongst these 520,000 – we know over 65,000 RSPB supporters did take part – and this is an important opportunity for me to thank you and to show you that public support can make a real difference.
Of course, as positive a step as this is, the Nature Directives are not safe yet. Discussions and decisions also include the European Parliament, and will continue this autumn and well into 2016. We still need your help to secure their future. In the UK and across the EU, nature continues to struggle, as seen in the State of Nature assessment in the UK, or the recent mid-term assessment of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy. The Nature Directives are key to reversing these declines – as the letter itself says, ‘it will not be possible to reach the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 without them’.
But the ministerial interventions this week, and the events I have attended over the last few weeks in Berlin and Brussels, give me much optimism and hope that we will succeed. At an event in Berlin earlier this month, we heard the voices of two young people: Lizzie Frost (17), a member of the RSPB’s Phoenix Forum, and Anais Sloman (21) from NAJU and a member of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN); a combined youth membership of 475,000. They spoke with knowledge and moral force. Their challenging question was how can young people have confidence in the political process, if their concerns about the natural environment are not answered.
But what can you do next?
We’re asking you to send a personal message to your MP, saying you care and asking them to call on the UK Government – represented on the EU Environment Council by Biodiversity Minister Rory Stewart – to defend the Nature Directives.
Also look out for the big conference on the future of the Nature Directives in Brussels on 20 November 2015 where the European Commission will be presenting the preliminary findings of the Fitness Check of the Nature Directives. We will be counting down the week before on social media, and I will be there speaking on behalf of Birdlife International in support of nature.
A vision to create one of the country’s best nature reserves for wetland wildlife has inched closer with planning permissions being secured.
This will allow for clean sand, gravel and clay from construction and tunneling work to be used at Cliffe Pools in North Kent; in addition to the river dredgings we have had to date
Working with our commercial partner, Boskalis Westminster, and consultants WYG, we’ll use the excavated material to alter the depth and shape of the man-made lagoons, making them more attractive for wildlife, especially winter migrants and breeding birds such as avocet and common terns.
Development and erosion have reduced the amount of naturally occurring shallow banks and mudflats in the Thames Estuary where birds and other wildlife can feed and breed.
Project Manager Sarah Cooper says: “Cliffe Pools is already a great site for wildlife, but securing these consents allows us over the next few years to create a magnet for waders and wildfowl, which currently struggle to find suitable living space along the Thames. It shows that conservation and business can work together to bring benefits for both wildlife and people. The project perfectly demonstrates the ethos and sense of the European Directives, which encourage such partnerships, and shows why proposals to alter them should be resisted.
Please sign here today to tell politicians not to weaken the European Directives that protect RSPB Cliffe Pools from inappropriate and damaging development such as a Thames Estuary Airport. The consultation closes on the 24th July.