HomePolitical leadershipInvesting in the environment is an investment in people

Investing in the environment is an investment in people

mass lobby smallThis post is by Ruth Chambers, senior parliamentary associate, and Maddy Carroll, campaign coordinator for Greener UK. It was first posted on Business Green.

Earlier this month, experts at Kew Gardens and Stockholm University highlighted the extinction epidemic facing many vital plants, reminding us that all life on earth depends on plants. This echoes the stark finding of the UN’s recent global assessment that nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history and the health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.

This gloomy outlook could lead to the view that we have no agency as one small island. But we already know the solutions that will reverse these effects and allow nature to recover, and we have the influence to bring others along with us.

The Environment Bill has the potential to be a transformational piece of legislation to address the crisis in our natural world. Like the Climate Change Act, it will set a long term trajectory to make the UK a green and prosperous country and a beacon to the world of what can be achieved. Unfortunately, chaotic Brexit politics is holding it back and it is sat gathering dust in Defra. It’s high time it saw the light of day again.

We thrive when nature thrives
Because we depend on the natural world for our health, wellbeing and existence, we thrive when nature thrives. Measures that a TV documentary team put in place at a primary school cleaned the air children were breathing. Organic farming protects our soils and provides us with healthier food. And clean water is vital, for drinking, sanitation, farming and energy production, among many other uses. Investing in the environment is therefore an investment in people.

We are clever and brilliant. But our ingenuity has also had adverse consequences (not many people know that plastic was invented to save the environment). Innovation got us into this mess but it can also help to get us out of it. The growth in clean technology has already shown we can continue to thrive economically without harming the planet. But we also need transformational policies to set the framework for future government action and make sure innovation takes us in the right direction.

Last week, the government agreed. In her open letter to us all, the prime minister said she profoundly believed that we share a moral duty to leave a better world for our children and committed the UK to a world leading new law to end our contribution to global warming by 2050. #Netzeroday was soon trending on Twitter and the announcement was seized upon as a turning point.

We now need a similar announcement on the environment. We haven’t been short of warm words and promises from politicians, but these have to be converted into solid legal and financial commitments. Parliament is fully behind it, recently declaring a climate and environment emergency, and people across the UK are crying out for change, as Extinction Rebellion protests have shown. Business support is stronger than ever. Independent polls show that the environment has rocketed up the agenda to become an issue that swings votes, alongside health and education. As the prime ministerial race gets going, this has to be a forefront issue in the debates.

A mass lobby of Parliament
And what are the people doing? On Wednesday 26 June, over 10,000 will be heading to parliament to meet their MPs in a mass lobby, urging them to do something. Organised by The Climate Coalition and Greener UK, The Time is Now will unite surfers, scientists, bird watchers, doctors, business leaders and many others, around one desire: to see urgent and ambitious political action for climate, nature and people. Together, they’ll be demanding a response that matches the scale of the challenge. Join us.

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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.