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Net-zero targets threatened by low pay at environment watchdog Natural England

Despite well-publicised plans designed to make good on the promise of carbon neutrality by 2050, major underfunding at the public organisation charged with monitoring wildlife hinders its effectiveness.

A new report into the environment watchdog Natural England produced by the union Prospect has found staff are drastically underpaid in comparison with colleagues in the private and charitable sectors, often taking home thousands of pounds less per year than equivalents at other organisations. 

white and brown flower in tilt shift lens

Overall, salaries at Natural England have fallen in real terms by 20% in a decade, while stress levels have risen, a combination that is now making it harder for the agency to operate effectively. In turn, this means objectives set at both national and local levels are less likely to be met. 

‘Poor pay remains a huge and worsening risk to Natural England and the work it does,’ the report said. ‘Comprehensive reform, supported with true additional funding, is urgently required.’

Natural England is responsible for a number of key climate-related duties, including caring for some of the country’s most significant wildlife sites, paying farmers to work towards the protection of wildlife, and advising on planning applications. According to the 2021 Environment Act, transitioning to a green economy is a priority, with specific emphasis on the need to rebuild biodiversity in the process. However, since the new legislation was introduced climate justice organisation Client Earth has filed legal action against Downing Street for failing to meet its own requirements. 

Image credit: Rasa Kasparaviciene

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