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Europe CAP a disaster

…and UK cuts environment funding!

The future of our countryside rests with UK governments, 
following ‘disastrous’ deal from EuropeA deal on the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), brokered in Brussels today, signals very rough times ahead for wildlife across Europe. This comes on top of the EU budget deal in February, which cut funding for wildlife-friendly farming schemes.

From the brown hare to the brown hairstreak butterfly, the future of many of our most celebrated species are inextricably linked to how our countryside is managed and the CAP deal will have a massive influence. The RSPB believes the deal means much of the CAP’s annual 50 billion Euro budget will fail to support wildlife and the environment, pushing more species across Europe to the brink. The State of Nature report – published by 25 conservation and research organisations in the UK last month – showed that 60 per cent of UK species reliant on farmland are declining.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Conservation Director, said: “The deal struck today is likely to be disastrous for wildlife and the environment, and it is a poor use of precious public funding. The final deal has favoured vested interests and let down many of Europe’s most progressive farmers who have been working hard to make space for nature and the environment while producing food. We are now appealing to Owen Paterson, and his counterparts in the other UK countries, to use their full powers to reward those who are willing to really deliver the most for wildlife and the environment. The Secretary of State was one of the few voices in Brussels calling for a reform which drives up environmental standards across farming and directs the money to the very best. It will now be down to him and his colleagues in the devolved countries to follow through on this.”

One of the most high profile aspects of this reform round was the introduction of new environmental requirements attached to direct payments – so called 'greening. However, these measures have been drastically watered down by Agriculture Ministers, and MEPs on the Agriculture Committee.

The RSPB’s Jenna Hegarty is the Society’s lead on CAP reform. She said: “Greening had real potential to secure much-needed space for nature across Europe’s farmland, but the final deal has been emptied of real environmental value: it is hard to see how this reform will help the recovery of the 300 million farmland birds we have lost across Europe since 1980.”

The RSPB is particularly concerned about the shortage of funding available for so-called ‘high nature value’ farming areas. These farmers, often working in some of the most iconic landscapes in the UK help to preserve threatened species and the landscapes they depend upon.

This comes on top of the following bad news…

Environment cuts prompt call for new deal on nature

Cuts to the environment budget announced today (Wed, June 26) prove the need for a radical rethink on how we protect our threatened wildlife.

That’s the message from the RSPB following today’s announcement that Department for Environment, Food and rural Affairs (Defra), alongside several other Government departments, is set to be hit with a ten per cent cut. Added to the cuts that have already been announced, this leaves Defra’s budget at almost half where it was in 2010 in real terms. Today’s cut is likely to fall disproportionately on conservation as spending on flooding issues and the badger cull is likely to be protected.

The news comes a month after the groundbreaking State of Nature report was launched by Sir David Attenborough and 25 leading conservation organisations, which revealed that our wildlife is in serious trouble with 60 per cent of UK species in decline.Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: “These latest cuts signal the urgent need for a sea change in the way we protect our wildlife. Clearly Defra is not alone in suffering cuts on this scale and with the economy in the shape it’s in it we would be foolish not to expect the coat to get cut to fit the cloth. However the State of Nature report published in May laid the facts bare about the worrying declines in our native species. Without investment in the future of our natural environment the situation will only get worse.

This is why we need a radical rethink of how we, as a nation which has pioneered conservation work over several decades, can protect our plants, animals, rivers, seas and landscapes. If the Government will not pay for environmental protection in the same way it has done in the past then we need to think hard about how we reverse wildlife declines. The environment must be central to thinking across government departments. Charities, businesses and landowners can do more but the Government must lead by example.

The £11bn of savings made today is set to be invested in infrastructure projects tomorrow. It is essential that these roads and bridges are planned with wildlife in mind – and that we are also investing in our natural capital, the habitats and species which are so important for our health and wellbeing. The environment is not a luxury in times of plenty, it is essential for our future and we have an obligation to care for it for future generations.”

4th July 2014