Before the event hundreds of people signed a pledge asking leaders to commit to the 25 year Natural Capital vision presented to the candidates on the night. The vision recognises the £1.2bn the environmental economy contributed to the WMCA economy in 2014 and the £104m that the local NHS could save each year if everyone has access to quality greenspace. In Birmingham alone it is estimated that there are 900 deaths linked to air pollution each year and that 29% of citizens living within the West Midlands Combined Authority area are inactive. The World Health Organisation recognises inactivity as one of the leading causes of disease and disability.
And it’s not just health that benefits, last year stress accounted for nearly half of working days lost to illness – and nature is recognised as one of the best ways to prevent and relieve stress, helping increase productivity at work.
The West Midlands Mayor will be in a unique position to lead the way in helping residents reap the rewards our environment provides by putting our natural assets at the centre of planning and development strategy. Within Birmingham, the Black Country, Solihull and Coventry there are 267km of canals and over 1,000 hectares of Local Nature Reserves. Benefits from green space extend from gardens and road verges to nature reserves and rivers, by creating more high quality natural green spaces and green corridors between them wildlife, including bees and small mammals, would thrive. Space would be created for physical activity and air quality improved. By reconnecting rivers with their natural floodplains more areas could be protected from flooding.
So far James Burn (Green), Pete Durnell (UKIP), Beverley Nielson (Lib Dem), Sion Simon (Labour), and Graham Stevenson (Communist) have committed to signing the #WMPledge4Nature. Andy Street (Conservative) expressed his enthusiasm for integrating the principles of the pledge into the work of the West Midlands Combined Authority should he be elected.
Georgia Stokes, CEO of The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country said ‘Thank you to all the candidates who have promised to work to our key Natural Capital principles and pledged to develop a 25 year plan for the environment. No one wants to live in concrete ghettoes so it is vital we put plans in place that go beyond political terms to ensure we protect a healthy environment that means we are all happier, healthier and more productive now and in the future. Whoever is elected on May 4th we look forward to working with the new WMCA Mayor to help them build on this commitment.’
A full report will be available shortly and will contain details of all questions and answers.
Thank you to The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Midlands Environmental Business Company, Warwickshire and Coventry & Solihull Local Nature Partnership and the Birmingham and the Black Country Local Nature Partnership who have created the 25 year Natural Capital Vision. Thank you also to Birmingham City University and Birmingham City Council for supporting this event.