The government should use some of the public health budget for a joint improvement programme on the public's well-being and nature, according to a wildlife coalition of 25 organisations. Groups including the RSPB, National Trust and Wildlife Trusts have backed a report urging Westminster to invest heavily in the protection of nature in the UK and to tackle growing pandemics.
The report, titled The Response for Nature, states that 60% of species in the country had declined in the past few decades and that a tenth were under threat of disappearing altogether. It says that 1% of NHS England's £1.8bn (£2.7bn) budget needs to be set aside in a bid to protect nature while also helping to tackle issues such as obesity and mental illness by giving sufferers better access to greener areas and coastlines. "By 2018, 1% of the public health budget should be invested in using the preventative and restorative value of nature to provide cost effective health solutions," it reads.
Steve Backshall, Bafta-award-winning naturalist, writer and TV presenter, will say at the launch in London: "The State of Nature report revealed where we are. Now we need a plan for where we should go. The Response for Nature document starts us on that long road.
"Let us be in no doubt that the public is behind us. An independent survey showed that 90% of the UK population feel that our well-being and quality of life is based on nature. Action can't be simply hived off to a single, hard-pressed department in Whitehall. It must run as a matter of course through every department, from Defra to the Treasury.
"Every department needs to understand that restoring nature will be a key solution to some of our most pressing social, environmental and economic problems. Every individual, from top to bottom, needs to embrace it, and act on it.
"The report highlights seven steps that the government needs to take. One is to deliver a 25-year plan so that "by 2040, we have a country richer in nature and can see people connecting, respecting and valuing nature".
Martin Harper, RSPB conservation director, said: "There are some big decisions being made over the coming months about public spending, the future of nature laws and development on land and at sea. These decisions must not erode the basis of nature protection. We need leadership from the prime minister to ensure all government departments play their part in enhancing the environment for this and future generations."