Nature and conservation charities are warning that the coronavirus charity aid package announced by the Government, though welcome, is not enough to offset the financial losses that are likely to hamstring their ability to protect nature and tackle climate change for years ahead.
The Government must clearly prioritise people’s health and livelihoods during this crisis, and nature charities are also urging government to look again at what help they can offer the struggling sector to enable them to carry out their frontline work which is so critical to meeting government targets on climate change, restoration of nature, air and water quality, and natural flood defences. While we must focus on the immediate coronavirus crisis eNGOs are urging the government to help us to tackle the nature and climate crises we also face.
The immediate impact of lost revenue through site closures, cancelled fundraising and loss of paid for work will see some environment NGOs’ (eNGOs) income reduced by 50% or more this year. They also face long-term losses due to reduced membership, donations and lack of access to funding in the wake of the coronavirus. This will severely restrict eNGOs’ ability to protect our land and wildlife, which people are valuing – and getting health benefits from – more than ever during this crisis, and eNGOs’ means to carry out vital conservation and environment works.
Nature charities are asking for additional short-term government emergency funding to cover costs for vital core work, greater flexibility on deadlines and outcomes for government funded work, and a commitment to not delay government funding applications. In the long-term they believe a resilience and recovery fund is needed to help environmental charities rebuild after the outbreak has passed, while keeping up their work to beat climate change and save nature.
Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, said: ‘Whilst today’s aid announcement from the Government is welcome, it only skims the surface of the support truly required to ensure organisations which protect the natural world, like The Wildlife Trusts, remain in a position to continue driving forward nature’s recovery. Our work is integral to Government achieving their ambition of leaving the environment in a better state for the next generation – work that is crucial if we are to make any headway in our fight back against the climate and ecological crisis we face. People’s health and wellbeing is paramount, so it is essential that we address the coronavirus crisis, but we mustn’t at the same time forget the very serious risks posed by the collapse of our natural world. Otherwise, as a society, we’ll just find ourselves lurching from one crisis to the next.’
Martin Spray, CEO Of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trusts, said: ‘The past few weeks have shown how much we need green and blue spaces for our own wellbeing – the sites we, and other charities, look after are critical for both wildlife and people. By closing our centres we lose these benefits and also the income we need to fund vital conservation work in the UK and internationally. As the Government seeks a way out of this pandemic, it is critical they support environmental charities such as WWT with additional funding and flexibility so that we can help restore our environment and the health of our nation.’
Chris Wainwright, Deputy Chief Executive of the RSPCA, said: ‘Our frontline staff have been out in very difficult circumstances continuing to rescue animals, while we also continue to look after thousands of animals in our centres and hospitals, but our resources are strained and our fundraising has taken a huge hit. Times like these show just how crucial charities are to support the most needy in society and although this package is a start, it is just not enough to safeguard the voluntary sector to ensure we will continue to be there for the most vulnerable, whether human or animal, into the future.’
Sandy Luk, Chief Executive of the Marine Conservation Society, said: ‘The current crisis has shown how important it is to protect the natural world. The health of our seas is of existential importance, now more than ever – not least for our own wellbeing and mental health but also to help address the climate crisis facing our planet. At the Marine Conservation Society, we are expecting our funding streams to be significantly reduced in the coming year, which will mean we won’t be able to do important work to save our seas. We urge Government to provide help for crucial environmental and marine conservation efforts, to ensure we continue to fight for the future health of our ocean and planet.’
Julie Williams, CEO of Butterfly Conservation said: ‘While we welcome the Government’s intervention, we believe there is more support needed for biodiversity conservation. Now, more than ever, we need to protect our natural habitats and native species, particularly when they stand to offer us so much solace and reason for hope during these uncertain times. This time is a very difficult one for all charities and, while any help is much appreciated, we are fearful for the future in this sector. We trust that people around the UK will continue to show their support for butterfly and moth conservation and indeed all wildlife.’