Today, the largest nature organisations in Britain have launched their collective vision for a post-Brexit farming, environment and rural policy.
WWF-UK, National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB are calling for:
- A new policy for the countryside – UK Governments to work together to replace the CAP with policies that deliver high environmental standards for land management across the UK
- The creation of an independent Policy Commission – to examine a future policy for the environment, farming and rural development and encourage an inclusive and engaging public debate
- A joined up approach between Government policies and plans for farming and the environment – Any future environment, farming and rural development policy must work together with the Westminster Government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment
- Continuation of agri-environment schemes – All existing agri-environment schemes should be kept open until a replacement policy is fully operational.
The call comes as the UK plans for a future outside of the European Union. Major decisions will need to be made about how all governments across the UK support the environment, farming and rural development to replace the Common Agricultural Policy.
Last year, over £3.1bn was spent on the Common Agricultural Policy in the UK. Its rules directly affect how farmers look after their land. This has an impact on everything we do – from the food we eat, and the water we drink, to the air we breathe and the woods, meadows and soils we leave for future generations.
Recent data from the State of Nature report suggests that 56% of native British wildlife species are declining. With around three quarters of the UK’s landscape being farmed, the agricultural policies that influence management of our countryside could do much more to support farmers to restore nature.
The conservation organisations are calling on Government to turn leaving the European Union into an opportunity to create a countryside richer in nature, by supporting sustainable farming that not only produces great food but also rewards farmers for protecting and restoring the farmed environment.
A healthy countryside is vital and necessary for the whole country: we need good food, healthy and productive soils, clean water, protection from flooding and an attractive countryside rich in wildlife. This requires existing levels of environmental protection to be maintained or bolstered while also thinking very differently about how we support the land management we want and need in the future.
Developing the right policies to enable this is critically important and a wide range of stakeholders must be involved, the conservation charities say.
WWF-UK, National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB collectively have over six million members and supporters across the United Kingdom. They own and manage 500,000 hectares of land, around half of which is actively farmed, either in hand or by one of their 2,000 tenants and graziers.
Rose O’Neill, WWF-UK, Freshwater Programme Manager commented:
It is vital to recognise that we all have a stake in the future of the British countryside.
“Whether we are farmers, the government, conservation groups or city dwellers, we all need to work in partnership to achieve a countryside rich in nature alongside vibrant communities and a thriving rural economy.”
Martin Harper, RSPB’s Director for Conservation commented: “As the recent State of Nature report highlighted we’ve already lost species once common to much of our countryside, and worryingly face losing much more if we don’t take action today and step up our efforts in the years ahead. We want to work with farmers to realise our shared ambition to restore UK biodiversity within a generation. We should grasp this opportunity to secure the future of the countryside and show we can deliver for both nature and farming.”
Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at the National Trust, said: “The public deserves great food, produced in a way that benefits wildlife whilst providing farmers with a sustainable business. But government needs to give farmers the right support, rewarding them for managing land for a full range of public benefits: wildlife, food, public access, beautiful landscapes, cultural heritage, reducing the risk of flooding and holding carbon in the soil. It’s only by changing how we support farmers that the long-term future of farming will be secured.”
Steve Trotter, Director, The Wildlife Trusts, England, commented: “People love the countryside and wildlife is a crucial part of what makes it special. The Government needs to be bold and take a radical new approach to the way public payments are used to deliver the things we need from a healthy countryside, like clean water, beautiful landscapes full of wildlife, nutritious food, healthy soils, jobs, room for people to exercise close to nature, as well as practical benefits like reduced flood risk. This is a once in a generation chance to help reverse the huge decline in wildlife and it must not be missed”.
Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations
Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?
The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.
New Construction Options
One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.
In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.
The Simple Retrofit
From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?
Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.
Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.
Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.
In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.
Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.
It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.
How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions
Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Public Health Crisis
It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.
It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.
Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.
With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.
The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.
With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.