Three days ago, the government delayed the Environment Bill for the third time. Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said:
Time and time again the government tells us that ‘urgent action’ is needed to restore nature, that it will ‘build back greener’ and that we can’t afford to ‘dither and delay’. What then is it playing at by delaying the most important piece of environmental legislation for decades?
We don’t need to look any further than this week’s New Scientist to see the urgent need for legislation to protect our environment and the many lifeforms we share it with.
Honey bee and buff tailed bumblebee feeding in the park.
Researchers at the National University of Comahue in Argentina have analysed how many different wild bee species are observed each year and recorded in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, a publicly available platform where both researchers and citizens can record sightings of bee species. They found that there were a quarter fewer species reported in the ten years from 2006 to 2015, than were reported before 1990.
There is a proviso: sightings are more easily recorded and reported in countries and communities where camera phones are more common. There are fewer reports from remote places where bee species might be less likely to suffer from modern agricultural practices.
More work needs to be done if we are to understand the full picture but it looks as if modern agriculture, including monoculture and the heavy use of pesticides, has to be one of the main culprits. The distant, difficult-to-reach places, where traditional farming methods persist, are possibly a last refuge for our wild bee species.
An ivy bee in the park and a red bartsia bee
This frightening global picture endorses research conducted in the UK in 2019, which found that a third of wild bee and hoverfly species are in decline across the UK. These two pieces of research are just a tiny part of the problem: last year the WWF reported an average 68% decline in global species population sizes since 1970.
Our situation is perilous; we are balanced on the edge of an environmental catastrophe. We need immediate protective legislation at local, national and international levels.
Header picture: solitary bee feeding on dandelion in the park [SMH]
The Bill is about 250 pages long. there were 22 sittings of the Parliamentary Committee to get it to its second reading. The last one was on 26 November last. So, I imagine that the Government is having a bit of indigestion in progressing it. However, there is the G7 meeting in Cornwall next June, so this could be a deadline for the legislation to be enacted. It would be something for the PM to brag about.
Also, the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place in November 2021, in Glasgow. Surely Gov.UK won’t have the effrontery to host COP26 before it has enacted this showcase piece of post-Brexit legislation. The bill was designed to demonstrate that we can do environmental protection better than the EU, to establish the Conservative Party’s green credentials.