Minster provides no reassurance to RSPB on abolition of Habitat Protection Laws – They prepare to ‘mobilise millions’

Guardian – Truss as ever picking fights she cant win

The head of the RSPB says the bird charity is ruling nothing out as it organises a mobilisation of millions of people against what it calls the government’s “attack on nature”.

Beccy Speight dismissed accusations by Conservative MPs that the group was lying to its members and pursuing a marketing drive, as it leads a coalition campaigning against the government over key “growth” policies which it argues will damage wildlife and nature.

The chief executive said a meeting with the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, Ranil Jayawardena, had not provided any reassurance that the government’s growth policies would protect nature.

The director general of the National Trust, Hilary McGrady, accused the government of “demonising” conservationists, saying her members were “outraged and worried”.

The RSPB made its concerns clear two weeks ago, saying: “Make no mistake we are angry.”

Since then, it has joined forces with others including National Trust, Wildlife and Countryside Link, and the Wildlife Trusts to fight government policies they say will threaten protected habitats and species, put clean air, water and national wellbeing at risk, and penalise farmers who are working to protect nature. Between them, the coalition has about 15 million members.

Speight said: “The response from the public has been overwhelming. I think this has really hit a nerve for people.

“We are facing a really serious situation and that is why we have seen this coordinated response. This was not planned. It was an uprising of concern two weeks ago and a feeling that we need to make our voices heard in order to try to defend nature.”

The concerns of the coalition focus on:

The groups have been encouraging supporters to put pressure on Tory MPs over these proposals which they say strike at the heart of environmental and wildlife protections. In response, Tory MPs have criticised the RSPB, accusing it of using claims of a government attack on nature as a “marketing strategy”.

Speight said: “There is clearly a generic response which MPs have been sending out. It is just not credible to suggest this is a membership drive. This is nothing to do with marketing; we have specific concerns that we have raised and we have not received assurances around any of these.

“Our members are people from every political persuasion expressing their concerns and I think this shows how significant this threat is.”

With little sign that the government is drawing back from the key policies of concern, Speight said the campaign would be intensified.

“All options are open for what we do next. This is a really serious situation and we really need to make progress so all options are on the table. We have said that we will mobilise our membership, and we will.”

Asked whether the strategy would include taking direct action, Speight said: “We are ruling nothing out.”

Justifying the strong response, Speight said there was an urgency to the situation, with 41% of species in the UK in decline, and 15% at risk of extinction.

“It could be really critical if they rip up these regulations. The goal in the government’s own Environment Act is to halt the decline of species by 2030. There is a huge amount of work to do to meet that goal and I wonder if the government understands how much is required to meet it. The kind of proposals that have come forward in the last two weeks suggest not,” she said.

The RSPB was not mentioned in Liz Truss’s party conference speech last week, but Speight has no illusions that the charity is considered part of the “anti-growth coalition” identified by the prime minister.

“We are not anti-growth,” Speight said. “But growth is not just about GDP. We think growth needs to be done better, within a healthy, natural environment which is essential if we are going to build an economy which is strong long term.

“So it is about how you go about it, and the messaging we are getting so far around the growth plans doesn’t recognise any of that.”

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