The Government has announced a new environmental package designed to boost Britain’s access to nature ahead of the upcoming Cop28 summit.
But the announcement has failed to impress a trade union and the Labour Party, both lashing out at the Tories for eroding the environment.
The Government’s environmental package aims to “connect the public with the natural world” by improving access to green space and declaring a new part of England as a national park.
The green plan also promises further funding for existing protected landscapes with 34 new landscape recovery projects across England to cover over 200,000 hectares of land, including woodlands, rainforests and sustainable food production.
The environmental push will also allocate more funding to connect children with nature and put nature at the “forefront of government efforts” to tackle climate change.
Labour’s shadow secretary of state for the environment, Steve Reed MP said the Tory party is overseeing the “destruction” of the British countryside.
“Under their watch, the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, and waterways face the highest levels of illegal sewage discharges in our history,” he said.
The general secretary of the Prospect trade union Mike Clancy also took issue with the Government’s nature announcement.
“Bold-sounding initiatives can’t hide the true state of our rivers, shorelines and natural landscapes,” he said.
Mr Clancy also hit out at Tory funding cuts to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, adding that the department’s budget is expected to be cut by more than £500 million by the end of next year.
“Without adequate funding for the guardians of our natural environment, there is little chance the Government’s rhetoric will be able to meet its stated ambition,” he said.
The series of nature pledges comes ahead of Cop28 in Dubai later this week, a summit that calls for examining governmental responses to climate change.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he shared the nation’s anger at the tree culling at the Sycamore Gap earlier this year, adding that it fundamentally demonstrated Britons’ love for the environment.
“We must do all it takes to protect these much-loved spaces and ensure that love for the natural world continues into the next generations,” Mr Sunak said.
“As I head to COP28, we are reasserting the UK’s leading role in promoting our iconic landscapes and keeping nature at the centre of our action to tackle climate change.”
Environment Secretary Steve Barclay added that the Government needed to deliver on its commitment to halt the decline of Britain’s natural landscapes.
“A healthy natural environment is critical for our wellbeing, our economy and combatting climate change,” he said.