Strategy for halting and reversing biodiversity loss

Now that the weather has finally warmed up, the natural environment is even more apparent to us.

Nature looks wonderful at this time of year, with the verges bursting with cow parsley and the young leaves on the trees showing acid green.

But all is not well. Biodiversity – the variety of plant and animal life – in the UK has been in significant decline for decades.

To put that into perspective, for those of us aged 40+, do you remember how many bugs used to get squashed on a car windscreen when you were a child? What about now?

That reduction in abundance of nature should worry us all since it is happening right across the globe. The world has lost two thirds of its wildlife in the past 50 years – during my lifetime.

It is vitally important that we stop the decline in biodiversity loss here in the UK, and then reverse it.

Change in farming practices

To achieve this our farming practices are going to change dramatically over the next 10 years.

Instead of being encouraged by EU subsidies to focus on the volume of food produced over all other considerations, farmers are now going to be paid by taxpayers to protect and enhance the environment.

The government will no longer subsidise production or just give money to farmers based on their acreage.

Instead, taxpayers’ money will be spent on improvements to nature and the environment via the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

More of us should be able to enjoy our countryside, too. We are blessed with a network of public footpaths right across the country.

But it would be even better if we could agree with farmers to have additional access to the countryside. Under ELMS, it will be possible to pay farmers to open up new routes.

In anticipation of this I have been working with Norfolk County Council to build up a map of missing links in our great patchwork of footpaths.

Regenerative agriculture

It is not just subsidies that are going to change our farming, but the technology of farming itself.

Dynamic arable farmers are discovering that soil health, rather than chemical inputs, is at the heart of healthy, profitable farms.

Loosely described as “regenerative agriculture” the new focus on reducing soil disturbance and maximising carbon content in our soils reduces the need for expensive chemicals to farmers while maintaining good yields.

Better still for the rest of us, it improves habitats for increased biodiversity and abundance and has the potential to make our fields a massive store for carbon: increase the carbon content of soil by just 0.1% and you lock away 9 tonnes of carbon in every hectare.

We need to tackle this internationally as well as locally. In November, the UK is going to host the COP26 conference of 190 world leaders in Glasgow.

A key priority will be to finalise the Paris Rulebook – the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, a reality. Plans to tackle biodiversity loss with be at the heart of this negotiation.

Local attractions

It was a privilege to visit so many of our great attractions and businesses as part of English Tourism Week. It was good to see so many visitors to Broadland, particularly over the Bank Holiday.

Visit England is encouraging us all – residents and visitors alike – to explore our wonderful area and find our own ways to “Escape the Everyday”.

Essential services

Finally, following the closure of Coltishall’s Wroxham Road Post Office earlier this year, a new mobile service will be launched on 21 June.

I want our villages and rural areas to continue to be served properly with essential services like these, so please do get in touch if you have any comments to make on this new facility.

If there is anything I can help you with, please do get in touch via email. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or via my website.

Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland