Green debate must move on: Truss

Published: Tuesday 4th November 2014 by The News Editor

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The debate over the environment needs to move beyond a polarised slanging match between hippies and gas-guzzlers, Elizabeth Truss will say in her first major speech since becoming Environment Secretary.

Setting out her vision for the natural world, Ms Truss will say economic growth and a healthy natural environment depend on each other, with the £100 billion food industry needing the countryside “to be in top condition” if it is to be at its most productive.

She will launch the Government’s Bee and Pollinator Strategy, which aims to reverse declines in pollinating insects such as bees, saying that they contribute £430 million a year in pollinating crops.

The coalition has come under fire for its record on the natural environment, including attempting to sell off public forests, culling badgers, failing to tackle air pollution and favouring fracking over rural renewables.

But Ms Truss will insist the Government is committed to its pledge to be the “greenest ever”.

She will say: “To achieve that, the debate has to get beyond experts and special interest groups, beyond targets and summits, beyond the po larised slanging match we so often hear: you’re an alarmist or a denier, a hippy or a gas-guzzler.

“The reality is different. We are making environmental and economic progress. They are not just compatible – they depend on each other.”

Ms Truss will say pollinators are “indispensable” to food production.

“Without those insects, not only would our parks, gardens and countryside be much more drab places, our food could well become less varied and some of it more expensive.”

The Bee and Pollinator Strategy includes investment in scientific research to gather more information on the condition of bees and other insects and a “Bees Needs” website to give the public advice on helping bees in their local area.

The Government is also launching a new £900 million countryside stewardship scheme, as part of the subsidies paid to landowners and farmers, with payments for measures to support wild pollinators and farm wildlife.

Payments will be made to farmers to maintain hedgerows and strips of wildlife-friendly ground on the edges of fields which provide nectar and nesting sites, and to provide “forage” for insects in crops and additional planting.

The Environment Department (Defra) is also installing hives on the roof of its central London offices.

In her speech, Ms Truss will point to lowering water pollution in rivers, lakes and the seaside, reforming the EU’s common fisheries policy to stop wasteful fishing practices, planting nine million trees and greenhouse cutting emissions while presiding over economic growth as evidence of the coalition’s green credentials.

Friends of the Earth head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: “This action plan is an important step towards safeguarding Britain’s bees and other pollinators – but unless it properly tackles the impact of pesticides and helps all farmers to develop bee-friendly practices, its effectiveness will be significantly undermined.

“Tens of thousands of people have backed Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaign for a national action plan. They will expect a robust strategy capable of saving our bees.

“Bees are crucial pollinators for our farms, gardens and countryside – failure to protect them from every threat they face will have a costly impact on us all.”

Published: Tuesday 4th November 2014 by The News Editor

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