By Claire West

A new approach to environment policy was signalled today as Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman called for everyone, from birdwatchers to big business, to shape the government’s Natural Environment White Paper.

A new approach to environment policy was signalled today as Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman called for everyone, from birdwatchers to big business, to shape the government’s Natural Environment White Paper.

The White Paper will be Defra’s first environmental White Paper in 20 years and comes at a time when honey bees are facing crisis, 97% of our flower-rich meadow have been lost since 1930 and the last 25 years has seen house sparrow numbers decline by 10 million. The discussion document launched today will gather ideas, knowledge and expertise which will feed into the White Paper.

Launching the discussion document at Kew Gardens Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“We want everyone to contribute their views on the natural environment - whether they’re concerned at the plight of the songbirds in their garden, the quality of air in their town, flooding problems worsened by people paving over their gardens or the fate of our wider countryside.”

“We have the opportunity to be the generation that puts a stop to the piecemeal degradation of our natural environment. We want to see a real positive change in the future of our natural environment — one which supports a stronger economy and better quality life. This discussion document will allow everyone to shape the White Paper, in a Big Society approach to policy making so that together we can aim to halt this decline and recognise that nature is our ultimate producer and supplier.”

The economy and the natural environment have historically been pitted against each other as if they were competing choices, rather than being mutually interdependent. Reducing the deficit and ensuring the economic recovery are the government’s top priorities but greater knowledge of the value provided by natural systems and the high costs associated with their degradation means that the economy and the environment cannot be separated.