From i-newsonline by Craig Bennett, head of Friends of the Earth LINK
The General Election starting pistol’s been fired and the coming weeks are set to be dominated by Brexit and issues like the NHS, education and our economic well-being.
Let’s not kid ourselves – it’s unlikely that most political parties will put the environment centre-stage in their campaigns. It will take hard work by concerned members of the public and green groups to focus their attention.
But our environment is crucially important for us all.
Air pollution puts strain on NHS
The reality is we’ll struggle to solve the crisis in our NHS while 40,000 people die prematurely every year thanks to the UK’s appalling air pollution. Children, with their developing lungs, are particularly impacted.
Our poorly-insulated, heat-leaking homes account for thousands more deaths annually too.
Our economy is continually burdened by the billions of pounds of subsidies tax-payers hand-over to support dirty fossil fuels and the nuclear industry.
And then there’s climate change. The alarm bells may be tolling, but were still failing to take serious action to deal with an issue that threatens catastrophic harm to both people and our economy.
Severe droughts lead to famine.
Just last month the World Meteorological Office said climate change in 2016 contributed to extreme weather events, including severe droughts that have brought hunger to millions of people in southern and eastern Africa and Central America.
It pointed out that Hurricane Matthew caused widespread suffering in Haiti as the first category 4 storm to make landfall since 1963. Heavy rains and floods affected eastern and southern Asia. Hundreds of people died and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced due to these events.
Six months ago the Living Planet Index showed that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012 and that the decline is continuing.
This decline in nature threatens the stability of the ecosystems that we rely on for fresh water, food and other so-called ecosystem services. In our own country our bee populations are declining due to factors such as pesticide-use and disappearing habitats.
Politicians must wake up to the fact that they can’t promise a better future for the UK without properly engaging on these environmental issues. They can’t promise a better future for today’s children and the next generation without committing to urgent local, national and international efforts to address biodiversity loss, climate change and air pollution.
British people want stronger regulations
The British public overwhelmingly want stronger environmental protections. An opinion poll we commissioned by YouGov last summer revealed:
· 83% said Britain should pass laws providing a higher or the same level of protection for wild areas and wildlife species than current EU laws. Only 4% want lower protection.· 81% want to keep an EU ban on neonicotinoid pesticides that have been found to pose a threat to bees – with only 5% saying it should end.· 57% said British farming subsidies should put either more or the same emphasis on environmental protection than the current EU subsidies do. Only 7% wanted less emphasis on protecting the environment.
The next six weeks are likely to set the direction of travel for the UK for at least the next five years.
Will the UK maintain the rules and regulations that protect our green and pleasant land and have enabled us to claim global leadership on shared environmental problems? Or will short-term profit win out?
Will our local, national and international environment get better, year on year, with cleaner air, less carbon pollution and more nature? Or will it start to decline?
During the General Election Campaign we must make sure our environment is not ignored. We need every prospective MP to engage with this issue and pledge that the UK will play its role in an urgent global efforts to ensure the next generation will enjoy an environment that’s getting better: a safer climate, flourishing nature, and healthy air, water and food. We can’t afford to let these issues be side-lined.