Act now to make a difference over the next 10 years
We have now entered a crucial decade for restoring the planet’s biodiversity, according to speakers at the South Downs Network’s Meeting the Challenge of Nature webinar. And the South Downs, “a national and international gem,” needs to be at the forefront as local people, councils and the Government step up to new responsibilities.
Baroness Kate Parminter, Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Environment and Climate Change said: “It is down to us as to what happens next as well as Parliaments.”
“This is a big decade. It is about delivery,” said Chris Fairbrother, Landscape and Biodiversity Lead at the South Downs National Park. “We all need to play a part in that.”
Speakers stressed that, following COP-26, we should all use our own spheres of influence to make changes to help reverse the decline in biodiversity. We are now seeing the planet’s sixth mass extinction, with major declines in mammal and insect species noticeable much closer to home through falling numbers of hedgehogs and turtle doves. Crucially biodiversity is directly linked to climate change. It is also accelerating the rate at which the sea level was rising and affecting areas like Climping and Cuckmere.
“We must listen to the voice of nature,” said Professor Dan Osborn, Chair of the Sussex Campaign for the Protection of Rural England. “We can take bites out of nature, but nature will bite back.”
Chris Fairbrother outlined some of the nature recovery work which was already underway through the South Downs National Park’s Net zero with Nature initiative, which sought to achieve net zero carbon emissions. Sustainable farming practices and careful adoption of new woodlands was part of this, but so was the reaching out to other Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and chalk landscapes across the south of England, creating wild life corridors.
“National Parks are working together on this,” explained Chris Fairbrother. “AONBs and National Parks account for 12% of the UK land area, and 34% of this region’s productive landscape, so we could start to make a positive difference.”
“We need to bring back abundance, not just diversity,” said Dr Rob Stoneman, Director of Landscape Recovery for The Wildlife Trusts. “We want to see regenerative agriculture and systems of agriculture that enhance wildlife.” He praised the success of schemes like the Scottish Rain Forest Alliance and the Forest for Cornwall. The North Norfolk coastline has become a prosperous and beautiful part of the countryside which has successfully combined wildlife with farming.
Speakers agreed that what was missing was the promotion of nature in decision-making:
“We are used to system where the economy is put above wildlife. That is not a valid way of operating anymore,” said Henri Brocklebank, Conservation expert at the Sussex Wildlife Trusts. “For too long nature has played second fiddle.”
“Nature is not a niceness,” said Dr Tony Whitbread, Chair of the South Downs Network. “We need to move away from a human story about domination and exploitation, and move to one which delivers regenerative lives and regenerative nature.”
Policy makers were urged to pay more attention to the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity which stressed that long term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature’s goods and services with its capacity to supply them.
The Government’s policy of relying on consumer choice and technology to combat climate change was roundly criticised. Baroness Parmenter described it as “a derogation of Government responsibility”:
“Government should be shaping new norms of social behaviour as part of the way we respond to nature and climate.”
Speakers were agreed that changes to the planning system, which the Government is expected to announce shortly, should include set targets for nature, just as it includes targets for housing numbers. They were concerned that the proposed system of zonal planning would remove the element of local democracy from the planning system.
Professor Osborn said Local Plans were almost certain to fail because of the way the principles of the current National Planning Policy Framework are applied in practice: “We need a better land use planning system which accounts for nature – not just housing and infrastructure.” He voiced concerns about the effect plans for a new Centre Parcs near Crawley, and new housing close to the South Downs, would have on the water supply.
The third webinar organised by the South Downs Network to coincide with the COP-26 summit looks at Sustainable Development and Living.
It focuses on the Phoenix Project in Lewes which will be one of the most significant brownfield developments in the South Downs National Park. The free webinar takes place on Wednesday 8 December from 6pm to 7.30pm.
The South Downs Network is a voluntary organisation campaigning on environmental issues across the South Downs National Park in East Sussex, West Sussex and Hampshire with the aim of a sustainable future and meeting the carbon challenge.
Those taking part in the meeting the Meeting the Challenge of Nature webinar on 25 November were:
- Baroness Kate Parminter – Chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee in the House of Lords.
- Chris Fairbrother – Landscape & Biodiversity Strategy Lead at South Downs National Park Authority.
- Dr Rob Stoneman – Director of Landscape Recovery, The Wildlife Trusts.
- Henri Brocklebank – Director of Conservation Policy & Evidence at the Sussex Wildlife Trust.
- Dr Tony Whitbread – Chair of the South Downs Network and President of the Sussex Wildlife Trust.
- Professor Dan Osborn, Chair of CPRE Sussex – the Countryside Charity and President of the South Downs Network.
For further information please contact:
South Downs Network,
See us on social media: