Posted by Nicola Hutchinson, Head of Conservation Programmes, England and Wales.
In previous years the score card had a distinctly "could do better" feel. Unfortunately there have been few signs of improvement and indeed in some keys areas, such as the England biodiversity strategy, the situation needs urgent attention.
Biodiversity 2020 was launched as the Government's new wildlife strategy in 2011, yet two years on progress with taking real action is achingly slow. Defra niftily handed responsibility for 'delivering the strategy' to Natural England and it showed in Lord de Mauley's speech at the Nature Check launch; Defra clearly sees itself at a distance from actual delivery as all the biodiversity progress mentioned was in the form of Agency action. Yet despite the best efforts of Natural England & Co it is too often the case that the barrier to progress is down to a combination of Government departments, Government resources and Government policy. So it begs the question what positive strides will Defra itself take in the near future to make a contribution to improving species, habitats and ecosystems?
Nature Check asks for strong leadership and this is where Defra must start. The Government Department with environment in its title should be an environmental champion. It should have conserving and enhancing wildlife and the environment as its core purpose. Its programmes and projects should lead by example and put increased wildlife at the heart. It should draw red lines on environmental matters which will not be crossed (yes, even by you, Treasury). It should not be an apology for wildlife and the environment. It should be Defra The Defender. Have you got what it takes?