A majority of the public believe nature is under threat and needs urgent action to protect and restore it, according to a YouGov poll.
The poll for the National Trust, RSPB and WWF comes as they and other mainstream green groups are mobilising their millions of members to counter what they say is the government’s attack on nature.
More than 8,000 adults were surveyed before the government announced the creation of low-tax investment zones, where “burdensome” environmental and planning rules will be lifted, and details emerged of the scale of environmental laws derived from the EU that are to be scrapped or rewritten in the retained EU law revocation and reform bill.
Eighty-one per cent of the respondents said they believed nature was under threat and that more needed to be done urgently to protect and restore it. Forty-eight per cent said they were willing to take action themselves to reverse the damage.
The charities are inviting people to develop a set of public demands to protect nature’s future by visiting peoplesplanfornature.org before 30 October. They are also calling on the prime minister, Liz Truss, and the environment secretary, Ranil Jayawardena, to take rapid action.
The YouGov poll published on Friday suggests the public want action to clean up rivers, greater consideration of nature in the planning and house-building system and strengthened legal protections. Most of these protections stem from EU laws that were rolled over into UK law after Brexit. They are now under threat from a new bill that has listed 570 environmental laws to be taken off the statute books by December 2023. They include laws that cover sewage pollution in rivers, air quality and pesticide controls.
The majority of respondents said they had witnessed a decline in nature and wildlife in their local area, 65% in the number and variety of insects they see, 58% in birds, 60% in mammals and 59% in green spaces such as parks and woodlands.
The director general of the National Trust, Hilary McGrady, , the CEO of the RSPB, Beccy Speight, and the chief executive of WWF-UK, Tanya Steele, said in a joint statement: “This government, elected on their greenest ever manifesto, is now contemplating breaking its promises on vital protections for the UK’s nature, risking catastrophic consequences.
“From abandoning fundamental legal protections for wildlife to failing farmers committed to sustainable agriculture, this would be an attack on nature at the worst possible time.
“The desire to defend nature unites people in every community from Caerphilly to Cumbria, Antrim to Aberdeen, and we must all be part of the conversation about how we protect and restore it.”
In response to the outpouring of anger from mainstream environmental charities towards government policies this week, Jayawardena attempted to “set the record straight”.
He said the claims that government policies including low-tax investment zones and apparent changes to the environment land management system, which pays farmers to make environmental improvements, were harmful to nature were “simply untrue.”