With the appointment of new Environment Minister the RT Hon Owen Patterson MP it seems the Government has laid its cards firmly on the table. Simply put, the priority is to reverse the economic crises the country is in, with all other concerns subsidiary.

Paterson has just launched a new rural contract

(http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2012/09/12/rural-growth/

which emphasises the need to support rural business and the installation of superfast broadband, unsurprisingly there’s no mention of the governments commitments under the Natural Environment White Paper

(http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/natural/whitepaper/

As one part of this process of engagement, all Defra ministers are going on a series of Rural Roadshows. We should make sure that ministers are engaged at these roadshows over their NEWP commitments and to ask them how they intend to help create the “bigger, better and more joined up”  natural environment envisioned by the Lawton Review, a key document informing the Paper.  As a conservation professional who constantly refers to the NEWP in my work delivering Living Landscapes I’m keen to follow just how the Government lives up to its promises on their green agenda, so watch this space.

Guardian Science Editor states the position well in his open letter to Owen Paterson: “In short, you need to see the big picture. My fear is that you were picked because that is the last thing you do. Your appointment is part of George Osborne’s bid to bring short-term boosts to the economy at the expense of long-term environmental gain and in the face of opposition from government climate advisers” http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/sep/08/open-letter-environment-secretary?intcmp=239

Stephanie Hillbourne of TWT puts forward a strong challenge to Paterson on delivering the White Paper http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/news/2012/09/05/nature-must-be-top-priority

Paterson’s website  here http://www.owenpaterson.org/text.aspx?id=6 has yet to be updated concerning his new appointment but of interest to anyone concerned about the environment would be his experience

as Agriculture spokesman he became an expert on bovine TB and campaigned for the dairy industry. He travelled all over the North Atlantic to produce a landmark Green Paper on Fisheries. As Shadow Minister for Roads, he researched best practice and the latest ideas from Europe and North America.”

As Guardian Editor DP Carrington points out http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/damian-carrington-blog/2012/sep/04/environment-owen-paterson-spelman-reshuffle Paterson  is “no treehugger”. Of major concern is:

He supports the badger cull

He told the cabinet it should end all energy subsidies and is a proponent of shale gas extraction

He urges more aviation capacity

Interestingly Lord Lawson, a leading UK climate change sceptic, welcomed the appointment of Mr Paterson, who he described as “one of the ablest people in Cabinet”.

The government continues to propose measures that focus on simplifying planning regulations, untying bureaucracy and devolving power to promote economic development. Nowhere does the government foster public discussion about the need for continued economic expansion, the impossibility of our small island and the limited resources it posses keeping pace with the likes of India and China. How much further down the road of development do we go before we lose the natural character that makes Britain what it is.

 This really isn’t looking good.

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