The government would be making a ‘terrible mistake’ by abandoning strict protections for nature, former cabinet minister warns News from politics


The former Environment Secretary has warned it would be a “horrible mistake” for the new government to scrap nature conservation in favor of economic growth.

MP George Eustice said the new government’s “body language” had unnerved wildlife groups and he called on the government to push for green growth that creates jobs and improves the environment.

In an exclusive interview with Sky News, he said: “We will only have sustainable growth if we take care of our planet.

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“You will always need strict protection for endangered or endangered species. And you’ll always need some strict habitat protection.

“You can’t just look the other way and say: They don’t matter.”

The RSPB, wildlife trusts, the National Trust and other environmental organizations are alarmed at the government’s lack of commitment to nature in their growth plans.

They fear regulations that protect plants and animals and set standards for air and water quality could be dropped or watered down.

Mr Eustice said while in office he developed an agricultural policy that encourages farmers to improve the outdoors, including the use of herbaceous crops, a mix of grass and flowering plants good for soil, livestock and wildlife.

“It would be a terrible mistake not to do that,” he said.

“Growth comes from having healthy soils and a healthy environment and actually using some of those regenerative farming techniques that our policy was designed to encourage.

“If you give that up and go back to the 1970s vision of heavy use of pesticides and unsustainable cultivation of land, then I think you’re in a bad position, both for the financial resilience of agriculture as well as for nature.”

The UK is one of the most naturally degraded countries in the world. According to the RSPB, 41% of plant and animal species are in decline and 15% are threatened with extinction.

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Mr Eustice added that some environmental legislation based on EU directives is “clunky” and does not do a decent job of protecting nature.

But they should be simplified, not scrapped.

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He said: “I hope we don’t see a return to people talking about newts and bats being the problem because they aren’t.

“It’s not about nature being the obstacle to growth. It’s some of the processes that were put in place that were more cumbersome than they needed to be.”

The government said it was committed to reversing nature’s decline by 2030.

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