Back in April I reported on the criticism by the Westminster Environmental Committee of the Secretary of State for Environment. This was in regard to the reluctance of the English Government to take a precautionary approach to limiting the use of neonicotinoids insecticides inline with initiatives in other European countries. This followed from evidence for their damaging impact on managed and wild pollinator species (see Pressures on pollinators, responses and action).
Defra has responded with the announcement of an ‘urgent and comprehensive review of current policy, evidence and civil society action on pollinators’ in order to improve the outlook for pollinators in England. This will build on a report Defra released in July called Bees and other pollinators: their value and health in England. This report summarizes the government’s current and proposed policies and initiatives to support pollinators in England. The report points to the need for better aligned action across seven policy areas. These include policies around agricultural production, especially in the context of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) tier I and Agri-Environment Schemes, particularly Environmental Stewardship through the CAP tier II. With the new EU CAP policy now visible the potential for these policies to contribute should begin to become clear. Other polices include Pesticide Policy where the criticism has been focused; Habitat and Species Conservation policy (through the 2020 Biodiversity Strategy); Planning policy; Control of pest and diseases (Honey Bee health policy); Policy on veterinary medicines (for pollinators) and the Insect Pollinator Initiative, which is funded by English Tax payers to support the development of pollinator-friendly policies.
The issues impacting of pollinator declines, and the policy environment to respond to them are both complex. Skeptics fear a wide-ranging review will simply use the call for more evidence to continue to delay urgent responses. Others are concerned that the lack of government funds will limit responses to calls for civil action by communities and NGOs, especially as the government has been reluctant to introduce legislative measures. Defra has committed to build on the report and has established, under its Chief Scientific Adviser a committee to review the complex factors impacting on pollinator health and promises to develop a ‘National Pollinator Strategy’ to bring together current initiatives, close gaps and provide an ‘umbrella for new action’.