Environmental charities are mobilizing their millions of members to take on the British government over what they say is an attack on nature in the push for growth.
Groups including the RSPB, National Trust, Wildlife Trusts and Wildlife and Countryside link are calling on supporters to put pressure on Conservative MPs over proposals they say strike at the heart of environmental and wildlife protection.
The main charities involved have a total membership of more than 15 million.
Their concerns include:
The charity campaign is asking members to contact their Conservative MPs to leave them in no doubt about their opposition to the proposals.
Beccy Speight, RSPB chief executive, said: “We are preparing to fight the biggest attack on nature for a generation and the immediate outpouring of support from all sides has been overwhelming.
“The economy, food security and our own health and well-being depend entirely on a healthy natural environment, yet this government appears intent on changing or scrapping crucial environmental laws. As we hold urgent talks with our partners across the sector, call all of us nature lovers to stand up for wildlife, contact their MPs and make their voices heard.”
Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said: “Nature is under attack from a series of dangerous decisions by government and we know people are outraged by the new threats.
“Vital legal protections for wildlife are at risk, fossil fuel extraction is being favored over renewable energy and the government is backtracking on plans to reward farmers for managing land in a nature-friendly way.
“The government wants deregulation that will lead to even more faeces in rivers, less wildlife and land unable to adapt to climate change.
“We encourage the public to contact their elected representatives and let them know how concerned they are. These actions will affect us all – the communities in which we live, our wild places, food security and our future.”
Hilary McGrady, the director-general of the National Trust, which has 5.7 million members, said environmental protection was being dismissed as a burden, while investment and growth were pitted against nature and climate action.
Mark Lloyd, of the Rivers Trust, called on the government to meet with environmental NGOs to collaborate. He said: “We urge the government to urgently discuss with environmental NGOs and others how we can develop collaborative plans to achieve sustainable economic growth while restoring the health of our natural environment. Each is dependent on the other.”
The campaign comes as former environment minister Michael Gove and former environment minister Rebecca Pow signed a letter in the Times calling for withholding of payments that rewards farmers for environmental improvements such as cleaner water, improved soil and more pollinators.
A government spokesman said: “Claims that we intend to backtrack on our commitment to the environment are simply not true. A strong environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. We have legislated through the Environment Act and will continue to improve our rules and wildlife legislation in line with our ambitious vision.
“We want every corner of our country to thrive too. Bureaucratic processes in the planning system don’t necessarily protect the environment, so by making sure we have the right rules for our nation, we can make this happen.”