HomeClimate changeBig manifesto ideas: on sustainable development and upland protection

Big manifesto ideas: on sustainable development and upland protection

Uhrturm Big Ben in LondonThere has been no shortage of great proposals in our series of big manifesto ideas for the parties going into the next election.

Leading thinkers have contributed ideas, alongside our own, for achievable actions to make the UK a greener, more prosperous country, on areas like low carbon infrastructure and innovation, and community involvement in energy supply and planning.

Today’s ideas, from WWF and RSPB, would make the UK a global leader on sustainable development and take a significant step towards protecting our threatened uplands.

Would you vote for them? What ideas are missing? Let us know what you think on twitter at #manifestoidea.



Leo Hickman
Chief adviser on Climate Change at WWF-UK

What’s the big idea?
The UK to become a global leader on sustainable development

The UK, in searching for its 21st century role, has a golden opportunity to become a global champion of sustainable development. In Paris next year, countries will try to reach a new agreement on a global deal on climate change. This will follow the EU’s agreement on energy and climate for 2030. Both these activities link into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) process which will conclude shortly before the Paris COP.

The SDGs are the best opportunity in a generation to set the agenda for international poverty reduction and environmental protection. But, to make it possible, the UK must be clear that tackling climate change is its top foreign policy objective for 2015. To champion the SDGs the government needs to reform Foreign Office and DFID priorities to support solutions that meet both poverty reduction and environmental objectives.

Who benefits?
Meeting the sustainable development goals will improve the health and economic prosperity of developing nations. This is in the UK’s self interest: we need all our trading partners to thrive and prosper without depleting the global environmental resources we rely on. The UK needs to forge a new, lasting relationship with the rest of world and leading on global sustainable development would be a diplomatic boon.

What’s the catch?
There would be resistance from some with vested interests in maintaining a status quo.

What has to change?
Explicit government commitment is needed to engage fully and constructively in both the UN climate negotiations and Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. The current commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid to the poorest countries should be maintained or even increased; and finance for climate change responses should be additional, not double-counted.

Specific actions would be:

  • Scale up the FCO’s climate diplomacy network to push UK interests on climate change around the world. They have already helped to encourage China and South American countries to pursue decarbonisation. They have also helped to generate low carbon trade between the UK and other nations. The trust and expertise they offer has helped improve the UK’s image around the world.
  • Ensure the DFID minister, foreign secretary and prime minister refer to climate and development priorities in all international speeches and the UK’s direction is signalled by key ministers. The US, China, Germany, France and India ensure climate change is on the agenda for their most important international meetings, the UK’s position will not be taken seriously if it is not echoed by leaders.
  • Publicly link the climate talks with the new Sustainable Development Goals and vice versa. The prime minister should make clear at both the climate and SDG talks that action on climate change is essential to meet development aims. The two agreements should be seen as complementary, with opportunities for mutual benefit in areas including low carbon development; climate adaptation and resilience; and new flows of finance.

Why should it be in the manifestos?
The sustainable development agenda, recast as the lasting diplomatically, economically and environmentally beneficial priority it should be for the UK, would have much broader appeal than it does at present.



Staff Portraits: Martin Harper, Director of Conservation. April 2011.No.20

Martin Harper
Director of conservation at RSPB

What’s the big idea?
A licence for driven grouse shoots in England 

The English uplands are in a bad way: just ten per cent of peatland sites are in favourable condition, and intensive management is increasing water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Driven grouse shoots are the most intensive form of game management and the trend has been towards practices which threaten the upland environment, such as increasing the surplus of birds shot, excessive burning, land drainage, using medicated grit, and both legal and illegal predator control. Indigenous wildlife, like hen harriers, could disappear from the environment unless this changes. Unlike other commercial activities, driven grouse shoots require no licence to operate. Licensing would ensure that the shooting community helps to manage the moors sustainably, supporting birds of prey and other threatened species.

Who benefits?
A licensing regime would benefit the 100 million people who visit our uplands each year, with a higher quality environment. It would benefit land managers who already operate sustainably. It would also benefit the population more widely: the uplands gather more than 70 per cent of our drinking water and store billions of tonnes of carbon in peat and soils, services that are degraded by poor management practices. Wildlife would also benefit, birds like peregrine, goshawk and the three pairs of hen harrier attempting to nest in England this year, sphagnum mosses and hundreds of specialist invertebrates.

What’s the catch?
There are some estates that are looking to intensify their shooting operation and increase the commercial value of their land, despite the fact that they receive large amounts of public money from EU farming subsidies. They would object to any regulation that might restrict their commercial objectives.

What has to change?
Licensing shoots would make good practice mandatory. Shoots acting within the terms of the licence would have nothing to fear. Vicarious liability should also be introduced for wildlife offences, making the landowner or shoot organiser responsible for any illegal persecution.

A licensing regime should specify the following:

  • All driven grouse shooting should be included.
  • Hunting should be subject to a transparent planning and reporting process, including commitments to meet agreed quotas of grouse shot and statutory obligations for protected species, habitats and areas.
  • An expectation of reasonable access for monitoring purposes.
  • Implementation of the management necessary to meet site conservation objectives of any protected area managed as a grouse moor.
  • Any breach of conditions or existing environmental legislation should lead to the licence being revoked
  • It should be cost neutral to the state.

Why should it be in the manifestos?
Landscapes like the Pennines and North York Moors require protection, so they can continue to be wild places where wildlife flourishes, where people can work in ways that protect the land and visitors can find peace and inspiration.




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Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank focused on ambitious leadership and increased political support for environmental solutions in the UK. This blog provides space for commentary and analysis around environmental politics and policy issues as they affect the UK. The views of external contributors do not necessarily represent those of Green Alliance.