Friday, 16 September 2016

Andrea Leadsom: Brexit a unique chance to develop UK-specific wildlife policies

Brexit provides a "unique opportunity" to create policies which suit the UK's wildlife and habitats, Andrea Leadsom has said. 

Last updated: 14 September 2016, 13:30 BST

Brexit provides a "unique opportunity" to create policies which suit the UK's wildlife and habitats, Andrea Leadsom has said.

The new Environment Secretary, who campaigned during the referendum for leaving the European Union, was speaking at the launch of a report warning more than half of UK species have suffered declines in recent years.

Wildlife such as water voles, turtle doves, hedgehogs and willow tits have seen precipitous declines, while one in seven - some 15% - are at risk of vanishing from UK shores, including the high brown fritillary butterfly and freshwater pearl mussels.

The report points the finger at the "overwhelmingly negative" impact of intensive agriculture as the most significant cause of the declines, although farmers said intensification had halted and landowners were "embracing the conservation agenda".

It comes as the debate intensifies over the future of subsidies for farming after Brexit - with £3 billion paid to UK farmers largely for owning land under the EU-wide common agricultural policy.

A group of Conservative MPs, including former environment secretary Caroline Spelman, has called for future payments to focus on protecting the environment, while the National Trust has said subsidies should only go to wildlife schemes.

Ms Leadsom's speech did not address how she saw the subsidy regime shaping up in the future.

But she said there was a need to explore "innovative" ways of funding, pointing to a pilot scheme which saw companies and developers pay for natural services such as wetland creation or using biomass from nature reserves to create clean energy.

"I want to see more of this new thinking. I want to encourage enterprise while making it easier to protect the environment."


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