The Times reports bees, butterflies and birds could return to the outskirts of towns and cities under plans being considered by ministers to create a “wild belt” to restore depleted natural habitats. Robert Jenrick, housing secretary, is understood to be keen on the idea of wildlife corridors as a way to encourage greater biodiversity across the country.
The Independent reports ministers must lead the way by making “ecocide” a crime in the UK, a leading green figure has urged. Ecocide – which literally means “killing the environment” – refers to acts of serious and intentional harm against the natural world that cause either widespread or long-lasting damage.
A growing movement calling for ecocide to be treated as an international offence akin to genocide or crimes against humanity has been backed by senior figures ranging from Greta Thunberg to the Pope.
The Guardian reports the UK’s climate targets will cost the government less over the next 30 years than the price of battling the Covid-19 pandemic if it acts quickly, according to the UK’s fiscal watchdog.
Forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) show that ending the UK’s contribution to the global climate crisis would add 21% of GDP to the national debt by 2050, or £469bn in today’s terms. But those costs could climb twice as high if the government delays action to cut emissions.
The independent spending forecasts found that taking early action to decarbonise the economy would have a smaller net impact on the UK’s finances than Covid or the 2008 financial crisis.
The Guardian reports adders, slow worms, water voles, mountain hares, pine martens and red squirrels are among the species experts have warned could be affected, after unexpected changes to the government’s review process that will raise the bar on how rare and under threat an animal needs to be to gain legal safeguards.
The changes, which have not been widely heralded by the government, could benefit property developers and infrastructure projects such as road-building, which currently have to take account of rare species found within the proposed development areas, and sometimes have to be changed or moved as a result.
The Independent reports the government’s long-awaited environment bill contains too many usages of the term “biodiversity”, where “nature” could be used instead as it is a “sexier word … with more public traction”, the House of Lords has heard.
According to Conservative former minister Lord Blencathra, the term “nature” commands greater understanding than “biodiversity”, and people can more readily relate to it.
BBC News reports a committee of MPs has lambasted the UK government’s approach to nature, saying it is failing to stem huge losses of plants and species. Their report says that the UK has the lowest remaining levels of biodiversity among the world’s richer nations.
The MPs say the government spends far more on exploiting the natural environment than it does conserving it. They’re calling for legally binding targets for nature similar to the UK’s climate laws.
The Guardian reports Ministers have been accused of hypocrisy in bringing forward a “toothless” environment bill that will fail to protect against developers concreting over valuable green space, lack provisions for improving air quality, and contain what campaigners said were inadequate protections for wildlife.
The government voted down amendments to its flagship environment bill on Wednesday that would have strengthened the powers of a watchdog, given local communities more say over planning and development, and expanded protections for habitats.
BBC News report the average farmer could receive a lump sum payment of £50,000 – capped at £100,000 for farmers with most land. It is part of a massive overhaul of farm grants, incentivising farmers to protect the environment. Older farmers are often most resistant to new “green” methods, and Environment Secretary George Eustice wants them to move on.
The Mail Online and Sky News report tree planting rates will increase from current levels of 2,340 hectares to 7,000 hectares (5,800 acres to 17,300 acres) a year by the end of this Parliament, under a long-awaited England trees action plan launched on Tuesday.
However, campaigners warn the goal for England is less than a quarter of the Government’s UK-wide target to plant 30,000 hectares a year (75,000 acres) by 2024 and fails to rise to meet the nature and climate crises.
The action plan is expected to set out how woodland cover will be increased with tree planting, focusing on broadleaf native trees, as well as processes such as natural regeneration, where trees grow back naturally on the land.
Pow said that she would be placing a legal duty on government to come up with a plan to cut dumping by water companies by September 2022. Pressure has been growing on water companies and ministers as evidence grows of the scale of the issue and amid increasing evidence of the poor state of rivers.