Wednesday, 17 January 2018

THE DELIGHTS (AND CHALLENGES) OF BIRDING AT BLAKENEY POINT IN NORTH NORFOLK

                                                                           
Alder flycatcher (photo: Cephas via Wikimedia Commons)


"SOUTH-EAST WINDS FOR QUALITY - NORTH-EAST WINDS FOR QUANTITY"

THE special birding magic  of Blakeney Point on the  Norfolk Coast was the subject of a fascinating illustrated presentation by Paul Laurie at the January meeting Grimsby RSPB.

Born in Grimsby, Paul grew up in Kent where, 47 years ago, he began developing his birding skills by watching the birds in and around St Margaret's Bay between Dover and Deal.

He moved to Norfolk in 1997 and, ever since, has been monitoring the birds of Blakeney Point two or three times a week,more often at peak migration times.

The Point is not for the faint-hearted, requiring a lot of walking on shingle - guaranteed to tighten the hamstrings.

It is a bleak environment with just a few trees and shrubs, laughingly known as "the plantation".

There are no records  of great tit, green woodpecker and great-spotted woodpecker and only one each for nuthatch and blue tit. Even house sparrows are rarities.

Yet, every year,  this iconic habitat yields one of the UK's  most impressive tallies of rare and scarce species - the likes of Siberian stonechat, desert wheatear, thrush nightingale, short-toed lark, red-breasted flycatcher, Pallas' grasshopper warbler, pallid harrier, various of the less common pipit and bunting species and, in September 2010, what was only the second British record of an American species, alder flycatcher.

Obviously, there are many quiet days, but the  magic of a place such as Blakeney lies in its "you-never-know-what-might-turn-up-next"quality.

And, as Paul said, it is a fair bet that, if you see one rare bird, you will then see a second  on the same day. 

An example of this came when he  was trying to relocate  a red-throated pipit he  had seen fly in off the sea. As he did so, a beautiful bluethroat, in breeding plumage, popped up just a few metres away from where he was standing.
.
Alternatively using either a Nikon, with 200mm. 400m lens or a Canon PowerShot SX 60 bridge camera, with video capacity, Paul has captured some excellent images not just of these species but also of the various, terns, divers, grebes and ducks that are a feature of the various habitats at this truly wild habitat.

The divers, incidentally, are particularly partial  to the tiny crabs which dwell in the harbour.

Blakeney Point throws up a special  challenge for birders. Because there is no cover, birds can see humans coming from a long distance and quickly fly off.

But Paul has certainly cracked the challenge. He revealed various aspects of his fieldcraft - for instance, watching to see if any passerines are being flushed as marsh harriers or other raptors patrol the  saltmarsh

There is a saying among Norfolk birders: "South-east winds for quality - north-east winds for quantity."

That certainly seems to be borne out at Blakeney Point where Paul has certainly enjoyed some sensational experiences with huge autumn arrivals of winter thrushes on north-easterlies.

On one occasion, he had to tread carefully because the ground was covered with exhausted redwings, including one bird which he saw flying in through sea spray, land just before his feet, then tuck its head under one wing and fall asleep!

On that spectacular day, he reckons there may have been as many 200,000 redwings, fieldfares and ring ouzels.

According to Paul, winter  visitors  such as fieldfare tend to leave Scandinavia at about midnight on clear nights, but, if they encounter heavy mists over the North Sea, they become disorientated and fly around in circles until they can see light reflecting off land (for instance, the white cliffs of Hunstanton - a noted Norfolk hotspot for migration-watching).

Paul's  inspirational presentation - to an audience of about 50 - was peppered with amusing anecdotes, for instance about a 'dead' tawny owl that a friend picked up off the road and put  in the boot of his car before continuing his journey.

When he arrived at his destination and lifted the boot, he was taken aback when out flew the owl, apparently in perfect health.

On another occasion, he watched in fascination as a kestrel spied an exhausted  starling that had collapsed into a pool after a long migration from eastern Europe.

The raptor pounced, but the starling was so waterlogged that it took three or four attempts before it could could take off with the prey between its talons.

By request, Paul escorts  small tours around Blakeney Point, and more details are on  his blog:
http://blakeneypoint.blogspot.co.uk/

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

ARTIST TORI RATCLIFFE DOING HER BIT TO BOOST SCOTLAND'S STRUGGLING PUFFINS

 
                                               
This whimsical  study of a puffin is the work of Edinburgh artist Tori Ratcliffe who is helping to raise funds for the Scottish Seabird Centre which is based in North Berwick.

Signed prints (which measure six inches by six inches) retail at £30 each, and Tori is donating 50 per cent from the sale of each.

                                                         
Tori - keen to support Scottish Seabird Centre
Says she: "One of the projects this money is helping to fund is the SOS Puffin Project.

"The number of puffins on the island of Craigleith in the Firth of Forth  had crashed from over 10,000 pairs to fewer than a thousand, due to an invasive  plant called tree mallow which grows to 3 metres in height.

"The Seabird Centre has been working to clear this plant, and puffin numbers have increased as a result.

Continues Tori: "In my mind, the SSC is a worthy charity - not only in striving to protect and preserve our marine life, but also because its team also puts a lot of work into educating children and getting them involved in nature."                                              


 More details from: http://toriratcliffe-art.co.uk/                           



17 PIONEER POLITICIANS WHO 'CHAMPION' BIRDS

   Lapwing - the choice of Arundel MP Nick Herbert 
ONE of the most encouraging of recent initiatives by the RSPB has involved inviting MPs to 'champion' individual birds in the hope that this will promote wildlife and the welfare of the environment. 

So far the take-up has been modest, but maybe more will sign up in the coming months.

In the meantime, congratulation to these 17pioneer parliamentarians:

Jake Berry (curlew)
James Cartlidge (turtle dove)
Therese Coffey (bittern)
Mark Garnier (lesser spotted woodpecker)
Nick Herbert (lapwing)
Kevin Hollinrake (puffin)
Kerry McCarthy (swift)
Jess Phillips (dunnock)
Rebecca Pow (snipe)
Angela Smith (hen harrier)
Caroline Spellman (willow tit)
Derek Thomas (Manx shearwater)
Kelly Tolhurst (nightingale)
Anna Turley (little tern)
Matt Warman (redshank)
Gavin Williamson (barn owl
Sarah Wollaston (cirl bunting) 


Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips - dunnock fan
















 * For more about the MPs and their choices, there is an ebook available on Kindle:
Birds and Politicians by James Wright 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Birds-Politicians-champion-endangered-nightingale-ebook/dp/B078JVYL88/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516028157&sr=1-1&keywords=birds+and+politicians





Monday, 15 January 2018

‘421-MILLION FEWER BIRDS IN EUROPE THAN IN 1988’

         DEPRESSING STATISTIC FROM RSPB'S CONSERVATION CHIEF


Martin Harper - is he right to be confident?
                                                

RESEARCH by the RSPB and its partner organisations in the rest of Europe  indicate that there  are 421-million fewer birds - across all species - than there were 30 years ago.

The charity’s conservation director, Martin Harper’s reminder of the collapse comes in the Spring 2018 edition of Nature’s Home.

And he goes on to warn that, without intervention by governments, there could be
a further decline of 20 per cent by the year 2040.

The director goes  on to suggest that global warming “will make vast areas of southern Europe and northern Africa unsuitable for growing food”.

A consequence of this is that there will be “crippling food shortages” and refugees will flee North Africa to escape “an inevitable rise in intolerance and potentially brutal regimes”.

Hardly cheerful stuff, but Mr  Harper says forecasts do not necessarily have to become reality.

He continues: “Now is not the time to turn inwards and see success solely through the lens of economic growth.

“It is the time to engage with others around the world and create the future that nature needs.”

He adds:”I remain confident that together we can improve the environment.” 

* Martin Harper has been global conservation director at the RSPB since 2011. Off-duty and away from birds, the father-of-two follows cricket and football (he is a fan of Arsenal FC) 

The Wryneck says:  The RSPB  statistic is for the whole of Europe. However, Britain will certainly have lost a high proportion of this  total. The  catastrophe - that is not too strong a word for the collapse - has come under the watch of Mr Harper and his predecessors. It is self-evident that 'protection' of birds has largely failed.  Imagine if a similar announcement was made a FTSE100 chief executive, an Army general or a politician in whatever their chosen area of responsibility? Falling on  sword might be the only option. Obviously, the circumstances  affecting the fate of birds are not all within the  control of Mr Harper, but he and colleagues at the RSPB need to ask: Why have we failed the challenge? Why are we continuing to lose so many birds? Farmland species are probably those worst affected, and everyone knows the reason why - intensive agriculture and the overuse of chemicals which kill insects and the seeds of wildflowers on which many species feed. Unless the RSPB puts its head above the parapet on  this issue, the director's claim to be 'confident'  is merely unjustified bravado. Within 20 or 30 years, once common species such as turtle dove, grey partridge, skylark, corn bunting and yellowhammer could, alas, be gone for ever.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

PRIME MINISTER LAMENTS 'SIGNIFICANT DECLINE IN WOODLAND AND FARMLAND BIRDS'

Venue for the speech - the London Wetland Centre
(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

 'WE NEED TO CARE FOR OUR SURROUNDINGS AND PROTECT WHAT IS                   VULNERABLE AND PRECIOUS'


IT  is wonderful to be here at the Wetland Centre - a true oasis in the heart of London.

In our election manifesto last year we made an important pledge: to make ours the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it.

As we leave the European Union, which for decades has controlled some of the most important levers of environmental policy, now is the right time to put the question of how we protect and enhance our natural environment centre-stage.     

Is that a shelduck or a  shoveler? The PM enjoys a spot of twitching
                                                                                                      

And it is a central priority for this government.

Our mission is to build a Britain where the next generation can enjoy a better life than the one that went before it.

That means tackling the deficit and dealing with our debts, so they are not a burden for our children and grandchildren.

It means building the houses that people need, so that the dream of home ownership can be a reality.

Ensuring every child has a good school place and can get the best start in life.

And it also means protecting and enhancing our natural environment for the next generation, so they have a healthy and beautiful country in which to build their lives.

Making good on the promise that each new generation should be able to build a better future is a fundamental Conservative principle.

And whilst every political tradition has a stake in our natural environment, speaking as the Leader of the Conservative Party, I know I draw upon a proud heritage.

Because Conservatism and Conservation are natural allies.

The fundamental understanding which lies at the heart of our philosophical tradition is that we in the present are trustees charged with protecting and improving what we have inherited from those who went before us.

And it is our responsibility to pass on that inheritance to the next generation.

That applies to the great national institutions which we have built up as a society over generations, like our courts, our Parliament, the BBC and the NHS.

And it applies equally to our natural heritage.

Value of our natural environment

Britain has always been a world leader in understanding and protecting the natural world.

From Gilbert White’s vivid descriptions of the ecology of his Hampshire village in the first work of natural history writing, in the eighteenth century, to Sir David Attenborough’s landmark TV series in the twenty-first century, which have opened the eyes of millions of people to the wonder of our planet and to the threats it faces - the appeal of our natural world is universal and has caught the imagination of successive generations.

In the United Kingdom, we are blessed with an abundance and variety of landscapes and habitats.

These natural assets are of immense value.

Our countryside and coastal waters are the means by which we sustain our existence in these islands.

They are where we grow and harvest a large proportion of the food we eat. Where the water we drink comes from.

Our green and blue places have inspired some of our greatest poetry, art and music and have become global cultural icons.

Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden has been recreated on stages across the globe.

Beatrix Potter’s stories and William’s Wordsworth’s poetic descriptions of ‘the calm that Nature breathes among the hills’ has made the Lake District world-renowned.

The Suffolk landscapes of John Constable, and Sir Stanley Spencer's beautiful depictions of the River Thames, in my own constituency,  are iconic.

People from every continent are drawn to our shores to enjoy these beautiful landscapes, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in tourism.

Industries which directly draw on our environment - from agriculture and forestry to aquaculture and fishing - support hundreds of thousands of jobs and contribute billions to our economy.

The natural environment is around us wherever we are, and getting closer to it is good for our physical and mental health and our emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Millions of us visit the countryside, the seaside, a local park or places like this, every week to recharge our batteries, spend time with friends and family, and to exercise.

So the environment is something personal to each of us, but it is also something which collectively we hold in trust for the next generation.

And we have a responsibility to protect and enhance it.

Conservation and growth

It is sometimes suggested that a belief in a free market economy which pursues the objective of economic growth is not compatible with taking the action necessary to protect and enhance our natural environment.

That we need to give up on the very idea of economic growth itself as the price we have to pay for sustainability.

Others argue that taking any action to protect and improve our environment harms business and holds back growth.

Both are wrong. They present a false choice which I entirely reject.

A free market economy, operating under the right rules, regulations, and incentives, delivering sustainable economic growth, is the single greatest agent of collective human progress we have ever known.

Time and again, it has lifted whole societies out of abject poverty and subsistence living, increased life expectancy, widened literacy and improved educational standards.

More than this, it is in free economies and free societies that the technological and scientific breakthroughs which improve and save lives are made.

The innovation and invention of a free enterprise economy will help to deliver new technology to drive a revolution in clean growth.

Around the world, economies at all stages of development are embracing new low-carbon technologies and a more efficient use of resources to move onto a path of clean and sustainable growth.

And our Industrial Strategy puts harnessing the economic potential of the clean growth revolution at its heart, as one of its four Grand Challenges.

From how we generate power, and transport people and goods, to our industrial processes and how we grow our food - new clean technologies have the potential to deliver more good jobs and higher living standards.

The UK is already home to around half a million jobs in low carbon businesses and their supply chain.

We are a world-leader in the manufacture of electric vehicles.

We are the biggest offshore wind energy producer in the world.

And we must continue to press for sustainable economic growth, and the immense benefits it brings.

Of course, for a market to function properly it has to be regulated.

And environmental protection is a vital part of any good regulatory regime.

So where government needs to intervene to ensure that high standards are met, we will not hesitate to do so.

That is the approach which underpins our corporate governance reforms and our plans to make the energy market work better for consumers.

Government stepping-up to its proper role as an engaged and active participant defines our Industrial Strategy.

And it is the approach we are taking in this Environment Plan too.

Together, they combine to form a coherent approach to boosting economic productivity, prosperity and growth, while at the same time restoring and enhancing our natural environment.

Our record

Conservative Governments have always taken our responsibility to the natural environment seriously.

In the nineteenth century, it was Benjamin Disraeli’s Conservative government which passed the River Pollution Prevention Act, providing the first legal environmental protections for our waterways.

A Conservative government in the 1950s passed the Clean Air Act, making the Great Smog of London a thing of the past.

Margaret Thatcher was the first world leader to recognise the threat of global warming and helped to protect our ozone layers through her work on the Montreal Protocol.

And David Cameron restored environmentalism to a central place in the Conservative agenda.

The measures set out in this plan build on this proud heritage, and the action which we have taken in office since 2010.

We have seen some notable successes.

Thanks to concerted action over many years, our rivers and beaches are now cleaner than they have been at any time since the Industrial Revolution.

Otters are back in rivers in every English county.

We are releasing beavers to the Forest of Dean, to help reduce the risk of flooding and enhance biodiversity.

Action at the EU level - of which the UK has consistently been a champion - has helped drive these improvements.

Because we recognise their value, we will incorporate all existing EU environmental regulations into domestic law when we leave.

And let me be very clear. Brexit will not mean a lowering of environmental standards.

We will set out our plans for a new, world leading independent statutory body to hold government to account and give the environment a voice. And our work will be underpinned by a strong set of environmental principles.

We will consult widely on these proposals, not least with many of the people in this room.

But be in no doubt: our record shows that we have already gone further than EU regulation requires of us to protect our environment.

Thanks to action we have taken, 7,886 square miles of coastal waters around the UK are now Marine Conservation Zones, protecting a range of nationally important, rare or threatened habitats and species.

Our ban on the use of microbeads in cosmetic and personal care products is another positive step towards protecting our marine environment.

And we want to  restrict further neonicotinoids in order to protect our bees.

We will use the opportunity Brexit provides to strengthen and enhance our environmental protections - not to weaken them.

We will develop a new environmental land management scheme which supports farmers who deliver environmental benefits for the public.

And once we’ve taken back control of our waters, we will implement a more sustainable fishing policy that also supports our vital coastal communities.

Animal welfare

That is action for the future- but we are also acting in the here and now.

When animals are mistreated, our common humanity is tarnished.

So we are pursuing policies to make Britain a world-leader in tackling the abuse of animals.

Here at home we are introducing mandatory CCTV into slaughter houses, to ensure standards of treatment are upheld.

We are increasing the maximum sentence for the worst acts of animal cruelty in England and Wales ten-fold.

We recognise that animals are sentient beings and we will enshrine that understanding in primary legislation.

We have consulted on plans to introduce a total ban on UK sales of ivory that contribute either directly or indirectly to the continued poaching of elephants.

In 2014, we convened the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, the first of its kind, to help eradicate an abhorrent crime and to better protect the world’s most iconic species from the threat of extinction.

In October we will host this conference again and will press for further international action.

Whether they are pets, livestock or wild fauna, animals deserve the proper protection of the law and under a Conservative government that is exactly what they will receive.

Enhancing our natural environment

I am proud of the progress we have made but recognise that the challenges we face remain acute.

In England, changes in patterns of land use have seen habitats lost and species threatened.
Since 1970, there has been a significant decline in the numbers of woodland and farmland birds.

Pollinating insects have declined by 13 per cent since 1980.

And while the water in our rivers and beaches are cleaner than ever, around the world eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into the oceans each year.

The problem was vividly highlighted in the BBC’s recent Blue Planet II series, which was public service broadcasting at its finest.

And I also pay tribute to the Daily Mail for its tireless campaigning on this issue.

The 25 year environment plan for England, which we are publishing today, sets out the action government will take to tackle all of these challenges, and I pay tribute to Michael Gove and his team for their work on it and the energy and enthusiasm they have brought to this.

Its goals are simple: clean air, clean and plentiful water, plants and animals which are thriving, and a cleaner, greener country for us all.

These are all valuable in themselves, but together they add up to something truly profound: a better world for each of us to live in, and better future for the next generation.

We have worked closely with the devolved administrations as we have developed this plan, and we want to work closely with them on these issues in the years ahead.

This is a plan for the long-term: as our environment changes, our plan will be updated to ensure we are continuing to deliver on our commitment to deliver a healthy natural environment.

Northern Forest

Nothing is more emblematic of that natural environment than our trees.

A tree is a home to countless organisms, from insects to small mammals.
They are natural air purifiers. They act as flood defences.

We have committed to plant millions more trees, in urban and rural locations.

We also support increased protections for England’s existing trees and forests, both from inappropriate developments and from invasive pests and diseases.

To make more land available for the homes our country needs, while at the same time creating new habitats for wildlife, we will embed the principle of ‘net environmental gain’ for development, including housing and infrastructure.

And as we pursue our Northern Powerhouse, connecting the great cities of the North of England to promote their economic growth, we will also create a new Northern Forest.

It will be a new community woodland for Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire, provide a new and enduring amenity for the growing population of the north of England, and act as a carbon sink for the UK.

Decades from now, children as yet unborn will be exploring this forest, playing under the shade of its trees and learning about our natural world from its flora and fauna.

Access and participation

But today, more than one in ten young people do not spend time in the countryside or in large urban green spaces, meaning they are denied the benefits which spending time outdoors in the natural environment brings.

These young people are disproportionately from more deprived backgrounds and their effective exclusion from our countryside represents a social injustice which I am determined to tackle.

The National Park Authorities already engage directly with over 60,000 young people a year in schools visits, and they will now double this figure to ensure that even more young people can learn about our most precious environments.

I have seen for myself this morning the excitement and enthusiasm of children learning about these wetlands and the birds that inhabit them.

And to help more children lead happy and healthy lives, we will launch a new Nature Friendly Schools programme.

Targeting schools in disadvantaged areas first, it will create improved school grounds which allow young people to learn about the natural world.

It doesn’t have to be big, difficult or expensive.

It could be planting a garden, growing a vegetable patch, or setting up a bird feeder.

Whatever form it takes, it will be putting nature into the lives of young people, because everyone deserves to experience it first-hand.

And this work with schools will be supported by £10-million of investment.

Plastics

We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals untreated into rivers was ever the right thing to do.

In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly.

In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.

This plastic is ingested by dozens of species of marine animals and over 100 species of sea birds, causing immense suffering to individual creatures and degrading vital habitats.

One million birds, and more than 100,000 other sea mammals and turtles die every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

This truly is one of the great environmental scourges of our time.

Today I can confirm that the UK will demonstrate global leadership.

We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates.

So we will take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic.

As it is produced, we will encourage manufacturers to take responsibility for the impacts of their products and rationalise the number of different types of plastics they use.

As it is consumed, we will drive down the amount of plastic in circulation through reducing demand.
Government will lead the way by removing all consumer single use plastic in central government offices.
And I want to see other large organisations commit to doing the same.

Supermarkets also need to do much more to cut down on unnecessary plastic packaging, so we will work with them to explore introducing plastic-free aisles, where all the food is sold loose.
And we will make it easier for people to recycle their plastics, so less of it ends up in landfills or our waterways.

But I want us to go a step further.

We have seen a powerful example over the last couple of years of the difference which a relatively simple policy can make for our environment.

In 2015 we started asking shoppers to pay a 5p charge for using a plastic bag.

As a direct consequence, we have used 9 billion fewer of them since the charge was introduced.

This means the marine-life around the shores of the UK is safer, our local communities are cleaner and fewer plastic bags are ending up in landfill sites.

This success should inspire us.

It shows the difference we can make, and it demonstrates that the public is willing to play its part to protect our environment.

So to help achieve our goal of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste, we will extend the 5p plastic bag charge to all retailers, to further reduce usage.

And next month, we will launch a call for evidence on taxes or charges on single use plastics.

We will also use the United Kingdom’s international influence to drive positive change around the world.

When we host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April we will put the sustainable development of our oceans firmly on the agenda.

We will work with our partners to create a Commonwealth Blue Charter and push for strong action to reduce plastic waste in the ocean.

And we will direct our development spending to help developing nations reduce plastic waste, increase our own marine protected areas at home, and establish new Blue Belt protections in our Overseas Territories.

I want the Britain of the future to be a truly Global Britain, which is a force for good in the world.
Steadfast in upholding our values - not least our fierce commitment to protecting the natural environment.

Climate change

You can see that commitment in our work on climate change.

Since 2012, the carbon-intensity of UK electricity has fallen by more than twice that of any other major economy.

In 2016 the UK succeeded in decarbonising at a faster rate than any other G20 country.

And last April, the UK had its first full day without any coal-fired electricity since the 1880s.

We are supporting the world’s poorest as they face up to the effects of rising sea waters and the extreme weather events associated with climate change.

Last month I attended the One Planet Summit in Paris, where I announced new support for countries in the Caribbean, Asia and Africa to help them build resilience against natural disasters and climate extremes.

We will continue to lead the world in delivering on our commitments to the planet, from fulfilling the environmental aspects of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to complying with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Our Clean Growth Strategy set out our commitment to phase out unabated coal fired electricity by 2025, and through the Power Past Coal alliance, which the UK established with Canada, we are encouraging other countries to do the same.

Some 26 nations have already joined the alliance - and I will carry on pressing others to join too.

We can be proud of our success in facing up to the reality of climate change.

But as the plan we are publishing today demonstrates, we are not complacent about the action needed to sustain that success in the future.

Air quality

And we are not complacent about the action we need to take here in the UK to improve the quality of the air in our towns and cities.

Since 2010, air quality has improved, and will continue to improve, as a result of action we are taking, but I know that there is more to do.

That is why we have committed £3.5 billion to support measures to improve air quality.

We are investing in electric vehicle infrastructure and new charging technologies, supporting the roll-out of low carbon buses, and expanding cycling and walking infrastructure.

In July we published our plan to tackle traffic pollution and we will end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

In the last Budget we announced a £220 million Clean Air Fund, paid for by tax changes to company car tax and vehicle excise duty on new diesel cars.

This year, we will set out how government will support the transition to almost all cars and vans being zero emission vehicles by 2050.

And the UK will host an international zero-emission vehicle summit, driving innovation towards cleaner transport.

I am determined that we will do what it takes to ensure our air is clean and safe for the future.

Conclusion

The New Year is a time to look ahead.

The UK is making good progress in our discussions on EU withdrawal – and I am determined that we will keep up that progress in 2018.

We are pursuing a modern Industrial Strategy which will help promote sustainable growth in our economy and deliver greater prosperity across the country.

We are improving standards in schools, investing in our National Health Service and helping more people to own their own homes.

And in our comprehensive 25 year environment plan, we are setting out how we will protect and renew our natural inheritance for the next generation.

How we will make our air and water cleaner, and our natural habitats more diverse and healthy.
How we will create a better world for ourselves and our children.

It is a national plan of action, with international ambitions.

But what it really speaks to is something much more personal for each of us as human beings.

That is: the impulse to care for and nurture our own surroundings.

To protect what is vulnerable and precious.

To safeguard and improve on our inheritance, so we can pass on something of value and significance to those who come after us.

It is what Roger Scruton has described as "‘the goal towards which serious environmentalism and serious conservatism both point - namely, home, the place where we are and that we share, the place that defines us, that we hold in trust for our descendants, and that we don’t want to spoil".

Our goal is a healthy and beautiful natural environment which we can all enjoy, and which we can be proud to pass on to the next generation.

This plan is how we will achieve it.
     
The Wetland Centre - 'oasis in heart of London'
(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

                                                               

The Wryneck says: The speech is to be welcomed  for putting  birds and wildlife on the political agenda. So well done, PM, for that! Here's hoping other parliamentarians and decision-makers (including those in local government) join in championing the cause. Conservation groups such as the RSPB and the county wildlife trusts also need to keep up the pressure. The proposed creation of a Northern Forest will be to the benefit of woodland birds, but how will the decline of farmland birds be addressed? Unless Whitehall is prepared to take on crop chemical manufacturers and the NFU, little if any  progress will be achieved