Author Archives: Shaun Spiers

Farming reform is a big post-Brexit prize we should be careful not to lose

The government’s plans for farming in England have taken a kicking. In October, the NFU opposed reductions to the Basic Payments Scheme, and called for delay to the roll out of the new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM). But many environmentalists see the first tranche of this new scheme, the new Sustainable Farming Incentive announced in December, as basic payments reheated. It was condemned by the National Trust, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts for ignoring “the important links between farming, climate and nature”.

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Why 2022 needs to be the year the government delivers on climate and nature

One of the most intriguing stories of 2021 concerned Boris Johnson’s conversion from climate scepticism.

“He said his “’road to Damascus’ moment came in the early days of his premiership when he was given a climate briefing by scientists.

“‘I got them to run through it all, and if you look at the almost vertical kink upward in the temperature graph, the anthropogenic climate change, it’s very hard to dispute. That was a very important moment for me,’ he said.”

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What will the reshuffle mean for environmental politics?

“Away with the cant of ‘Measures, not men!’ – the idle supposition that it is the harness and not the horses that draw the chariot along.” Measures matter, or course, but it is ministers, women and men, who champion them and drive them through. This reshuffle matters, and it looks good for those who care about action on climate and the wider environment.

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Where failure is not an option: four tests for the Glasgow climate summit

This is an important year for the climate, culminating in the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The task for this conference is to close the emissions gap to arrest global warming; build the world’s resilience, especially as we recover from the Covid pandemic; and agree measures to compensate poorer countries for the damage climate change is already causing. All the evidence shows that time is running out to turn the tide on the climate crisis. So, as the hosts of COP26, as well as the G7, the spotlight is on the UK government to lead international efforts on climate change in 2021. That work began last year, it must now be significantly increased, starting today, in the run up to COP26, and will need to last well beyond the Glasgow summit in November.

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Brexit: the next phase

We finally have a Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) between the UK and EU. This is good news. No deal was always the worst possible option.

The agreement is good on climate, pays lip service to the concept of sustainable development and affirms the parties’ determination “to maintain and improve” environmental and other standards (p182). But Greener UK’s preliminary analysis concludes that it gives little certainty that standards will not be lowered in the future.

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We should be supporting the National Trust not bashing it for exploring our history

There were a couple of charity stories in newspapers over the weekend. First, NCVO and Nottingham Trent University reported that 39 per cent of charities had deteriorating finances. Shop and visitor income is down; events have been cancelled; several months of face to face fundraising were lost during the lockdown. At the same time, 56 per cent expected a rising demand for their services. The minister for civil society accepts that some charities might have to close. Many will struggle to meet demand for their services.

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What history tells us about how we are dealing with climate change

To make climate change real to people, a first order priority rather than an afterthought, we need to tell stories, stories about what is already happening and stories about what will happen as temperatures continue to rise. But for some people, telling the story of what happened in the past when temperatures changed by just a couple of degrees Celsius will do the trick.    

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Time to settle the question: how green a Brexit will we get?

INTEXT-westminsterFrom the start of next year, the UK will no longer be bound by European Union laws or subject to the European Court of Justice. We will leave the single market and the customs union; replace the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy with national policies; and cease to be a member of the European Chemicals Agency.

The UK has already left the EU, but only when the transition period ends will we really be on our own. How are we doing? Will it be the green Brexit promised by ministers? Read more

A credible planning system has to be serious about the environment

Having engaged with successive planning reforms during my time as chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), there is something comfortingly familiar about the white paper just published by the government. Many of the reforms I encountered in my first eight years in the job were swept away in 2012, when the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was introduced. Read more

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