Wildlife groups challenge government on lack of action for wildlife

Palace of Westminster Image: Shutterstock

Wild Justice is one of a large group of environmental organisations taking a legal challenge against the Westminster government’s failure to act effectively to meet wildlife recovery targets – click here for BBC coverage. Wildlife and Countryside Link sent a Pre-action Protocol letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs back in May.  Wild Justice has been centrally involved in this initiative. 

This legal action, the first by Wildlife and Countryside Link, shows that wildlife groups, from the big guys such as RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and Woodland Trust to the many much smaller organisations including Wild Justice, River Action and the Wildlife Gardening Forum, are determined to use the law to make governments honour their commitments. 

With the calling of the general election, it is a little unclear who will be in government on 5 July (although the odds on the Conservatives being the party with most seats are currently 35/1) but the task of responding to any evolving legal challenge will fall to that new government. We may hear fine words about wildlife conservation during the election campaign (although we haven’t heard much yet) but it will be action after the election that really matters.

We will scrutinise the manifestos of all the major political parties to assess their promises on environmental matters. 

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: 

In the Environment Act, the previous Government established a groundbreaking legal framework for nature recovery, and it is positive to see politicians of all stripes pledge to halt wildlife decline. Yet time after time, environmental targets are missed.

The Office for Environmental Protection [OEP] says that once again delivery is falling short. It’s time for the culture of non-compliance with environmental law to end. When plans to restore biodiversity and stop pollution aren’t delivering, we can’t afford to stand by. Environmental charities are ready to take legal action where any Government falls short of its own promises for nature.

As we approach polling day, we’re calling on all parties to set out what they’d do for nature if elected. Environmental charities large and small have written to all party leaders to challenge themto explain to the voting public how they would restore our natural world and pass on a country rich in nature for future generations.

Wildlife and Countryside Link is represented by Leigh Day whose Ricardo Gama said:

The government set ambitious targets for itself in the Environment Act 2021, as well as setting up an independent regulator, the OEP, to monitor whether it is on track to meet those targets. The OEP’s most recent assessment is bleak, finding that the government is ‘largely off track’ to meet the targets that it set for itself. Link are rightly asking the government how it can carry on with a business as usual approach and still meet its targets in light of the OEP’s findings. A pre-action letter has been sent asking that question. If the government don’t give a satisfactory response then Link will consider issuing a claim for judicial review in the High Court.

Wild Justice’s Mark Avery said:

The next government needs to act to restore wildlife in our lives. Fine words won’t do. Promises need to be delivered and as Wild Justice has shown in our work, legal action is a potent force to make politicians keep their promises.”