Written by Doug Hulyer, LNP Chair
Can you imagine what world we will be living in, come 2024?
If I’d been asked back in the summer of 2018, when taking on the Chair of the LNP, what I would have wished for the LNP by 2021, things were quite clear. It would have been progress on more, better and joined up high-quality landscapes able to support wildlife; ecosystems functioning as nature intended; an increased understanding by everyone of the importance of nature to our wellbeing and society – and a growing love for it; an economy realigning itself around a more sustainable Kate Raworth ‘doughnut’ model. I would have hoped for progress toward a world on track to keep our climate heating to well under 1.5° and national, and international, action taken to reverse the ecological extinction crisis - grand visions made in a world of relative predictability, and scaled to this wonderful County.
Image 1 - Kate Raworth's Doughnut Economics model
Time seems to pass so much more quickly as one ages; but, looking back, three years feels like a very long time indeed. Those same hopes remain, but the sense of urgency in realising the vision has become overwhelming. As a recent paper in Nature reported, the chances of keeping the rise in world temperature below 2° with current levels of action has a probability of less than 5% - and a 1.5° rise is thought to be catastrophic. Wild fires, melting ice sheets and extreme weather are now normal, and global temperatures in 2020 equalled those of the two previously highest years (2016 and 2019) despite the cooling effects of La Nina. Reports from the International Energy Agency predict that the increase in global emissions during 2021 could be the second biggest in history, as we bounce back from the effects of the pandemic.
Here in England, the regular State of Nature reports continue to tell a sorry tale of continuing declines in species and habitats, and we have yet to set a ‘state of nature’ target nationally for recovery.
Context is all, and the last three years have shown that the foundations of our world can shift – sometimes dramatically. Who would have predicted how the politics of Brexit have played out here in the UK, or the events in the USA in the run up to the 2020 elections (or even its result)? Extinction Rebellion? Greta Thunberg as a global force? David Attenborough telling it like it is? Who would have thought of COVID-19? And that magic money trees do exist if the motivation is there to grow and nurture them?
The world has shifted and, if there is a will, we could ‘build back better’.
The next three years will bring challenges and opportunities. Government policy will play out through the Environment Bill and Agriculture Acts and we must be ready to seize the opportunities and celebrate successes. We must also be ready to raise our voices if there is a need to challenge. Sometimes there will be hard choices to be made in our coalition of the willing.
The LNP has many differing voices, seeking common cause and common ground, and yet we all have nature’s recovery and dealing with the climate emergency as our guiding North Star.
Over the past three years we have created, developed and built the tools and policies that could enable practical change in the County. Our Partners have worked hard to help achieve this, whether they are from the environmental NGO sector, local government, the Local Enterprise Partnership, academia or those involved in the health service. Our next Strategy (2021-24), launched today, addresses all these issues and more.
Turning around the supertanker of environmental degradation and decline is still not easy; as a society, we seem to be at the stage of almost deciding that the ship needs to turn, but still unclear about where next. The LNP has a vital role to play in charting the new direction, and making it appealing and hopeful. It seems amazing that we still need to make the case for nature amongst decision takers and the public at large; to shift the perception, built over generations, that nature is not just a ‘nice to have’, toward the realisation that it is the fundamental basis for healthy, thriving living – to work with the grain of nature and not against it. If we don’t heed the warnings, nature can bite back.
So, we need to explore new ways of building this new realisation, of our place in nature, with everyone - not just those in the know, in our bubble and echo chamber. True communication is as much about listening as speaking, and we must listen to truly engage communities in this endeavour.
Three years is a long time and, it’s no understatement to claim that, the next are probably more critical than any in the history of humanity. If we don’t heed the warnings of the last three years, and use this as an opportunity for a truly green recovery, as our famous resident Gloucestershire environmentalist, Jonathan Porritt said last year “The climate’s screwed. The planet’s screwed. And all future generations are screwed. It’s as simple and as binary as that.”
The challenge to the Partners that comprise the LNP is, quite simply, to turn the tide in this beautiful and diverse corner of England, so that we are not screwed. There’s work to do and we hope everybody will join us.
Image 2 - Dawn in Tetbury (credit Terry Matthews, Alamy)