Natural Environment White Paper, one year on
One year on from the publication of The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature, the first white paper on the natural environment in 20 years, Defra’s staff magazine Landscape reviews progress across the white paper’s measures to take account of the value of nature in decision making.
The Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) responded to the views of the public, environmental charities, nature reserves and businesses when it was published in June 2011. It built on the groundbreaking research in the UK National Ecosystem Assessment and on Making Space for Nature, the independent review of England’s wildlife sites. One year on, progress has been made to put the value of nature at the heart of decision-making in government, communities and businesses. Here, we take a look at the measures introduced.
What is the Natural Environment White Paper?
The white paper, titled The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature, set out 92 commitments to achieve a healthy natural environment to be the foundation of sustained economic growth, prospering communities and personal wellbeing. The commitments also had the aim of harnessing and supporting the enthusiasm that people have for protecting and enjoying the natural environment.
The white paper has been mainstreamed across Government since its publication, and departments are working with businesses, farmers and landowners, local authorities and environmental organisations to implement it. However, the Government has also been clear that everyone can make a difference when it comes to looking after the environment.
What progress has been made so far?
Throughout government, a range of initiatives have been implemented that focus on protecting and improving the natural environment – many that support local action.
Biodiversity 2020 was published by Defra just two months after the release of the NEWP. It set out a strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystems services, and stakeholder groups are now helping to deliver the plan. A share of £1 million of capacity building funding has been shared among 47 partnerships, and applications are now being received for formal recognition as a Local Nature Partnership, which aims to improve the range of benefits and services people get from a healthy natural environment.
The last issue of Landscape reported how 12 Natural Improvement Areas (NIAs) have been chosen to receive a share of £7.5 million of government funding. The sites cover a wide area of England, and work has now begun on enhancing and protecting ecosystems for wildlife and people. These areas were a response to a recommendation from Sir John Lawton, who found that England’s wildlife sites were fragmented and unable to respond to pressures such as climate change and population growth.
Another focus is growing a green economy. An independent Natural Capital Committee has been set up to advise the Economic Affairs Committee on the state of natural assets in England. A business-led Ecosystem Markets Task Force is now assessing opportunities for UK businesses from expanding trade in green goods and the market for sustainable natural services. Defra, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) have publishedEnabling the transition to a green economy: Government and business working together, which maps out planned action until 2020 across areas including resource efficiency, waste prevention and carbon capture and storage.
Reconnecting people with nature for mutual benefit is also an important part of the white paper. Defra has started initiatives such as the Green Infrastructure Partnership to help local communities to improve green spaces, and is supporting the Love Where You Live campaign.
Activity across government includes the Department of Transport funding walking and cycling initiatives; the Health and Safety Executive issuing guidance for school trips; the Department for Education streamlining its advice on health and safety law for schools; and the Department of Health recognising links between good health and the environment in its public health outcomes framework.
What is coming up next?
In July, the anniversary of the white paper will be marked with an event linking progress at home and abroad. The Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, will be announcing a range of initiatives flowing from the white paper, and Defra will be publishing a Natural Environment White paper Implementation Update.
This article was originally published in Landscape, Defra’s online staff magazine.
- The White Paper – One year on: Defra reviews progress to secure the value of nature
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