The Government is ‘not getting the message’ that the conservation sector needs financial support to weather the Covid-19 storm, the head of the National Trust has said.
Hilary McGrady, the charity’s director general, warned environmental gains made over recent years are under threat because the sector is losing huge amounts of money due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Trust itself is facing losses of £200m, with legacies estimated to fall by up to a third, and Ms McGrady expects next year to be even more challenging than 2020 on the fundraising front.
The charity has already asked the Government for grants to help the sector recover from the shock.
During an online event hosted by the Green Alliance this week (April 4), Ms McGrady was asked whether the message about the importance of supporting conservation in the long-term was being received by Ministers.
She said: “If I am being honest, no, it clearly is not. I do not think it is getting across. There is a sense that we are not urgent and are actually largely funded by grants, which they are sure are OK anyway.”
Natural England chairman Tony Juniper, who was also speaking at the Green Alliance event, issued a similar warning about how investment in the environment could drop off after the pandemic as budgets are squeezed.
His comments came shortly after farm and green groups urged the Government to protect agricultural and environmental spending as the threat of a new round of austerity grows.
“The big threat to nature is going to be that it gets sidelined in favour of economic growth and the familiar story we saw after the financial crisis,” Mr Juniper said.
“We have got to tell the carbon and nature story, but we have also got to tell the food security story, [and talk] about the benefits of tourism and resilience in the face of climate change in terms of flood risk reduction.
“We have to put that into the discussion so we can get the attention of the economists, including those in the Treasury.”