A face-to-face meeting or hand crafted letter to your representative in government, outlining why nature is important to you and what you want your MP to campaign for on your behalf, has a huge impact.
One meeting with or hand crafted letter from one constituent is important, a handful shows it's an issue and a dozen or more could indicate that it's something requiring more urgent action.
Add your voice to the mix and help us achieve positive action for wildlife.
At the moment, we're campaigning specifically to ensure a progressive and powerful Environment Act, helping us to build a Nature Recovery Network that is enshrined in law. You can find out more about that campaign here, and we hope you agree with our aims and are able to write to your MP specifically about this.
But a letter from, or meeting with, you should be about what you feel strongly about, and a voice raised for nature and the environment - whatever it may specifically be about - helps to raise the profile of this cause with your representative in government.
Arranging a meeting with your MP
Meeting with your MP is a great way to get your voice heard and a better understanding of what your MP thinks about the issue, too. It doesn't have to be intimidating - MPs are just people, and they want to hear from their constituents.
Along with a coalition of other environmental charities, we are organising a mass lobby in Westminster, central London, to enable as many people as possible to meet face-to-face with their MP on one day. You can sign up to join us here, and let your MP know that The Time Is Now. We are pleased that subsidised travel to London is available from National Express.
Alternatively, you can set up a meeting by writing or sending an email to your MP. You could meet at your local nature reserve or wild space, or at their constituency office. We've got some advice for you, so you can be prepared.
What to expect
MPs want to know what it is you care about. Not only do they want to hear from you, they have a duty to listen - their job is to represent you in Parliament! MPs are generally friendly and open for a chat, but they are pressed for time so don't expect meetings to last too long. Generally appointments will last around 10-15 minutes - so make sure you've got your key messages ready.
You might find it helpful to prepare in advance and perhaps even rehearse what you want to say beforehand. It's also important to research who your MP is. Find out what they care about and whether or not they have taken an active interest in the environment before – that way you can go into the meeting fully prepared. You can find a lot of that information here. See the ‘Voting Records’ section and scroll down for information about environmental voting records.
All MP surgeries are slightly different, but in most cases you are likely to be sat in a waiting room before your appointment with people from your local area. Once it is your turn, you'll be invited into an office for your chance to persuade your MP why they should be supporting a new law for nature's recovery. You won't regret it (and to your friends, family and potential employees it sounds really impressive - so be sure to let them know!).
How can I make my meeting effective?
- Share your story: MPs love personal stories. Share yours with them, choosing experiences that have taken place in your local area and meant a lot to you. This way you can show your MP how much the natural environment in your area matters. Perhaps there are some moments shared with your Wildlife Trust or events you've attended that stand out? Can you think how even more wildlife in your area would help to improve it?
- Have a clear ask: To make your meeting as successful as possible, make sure you have some clear things to ask your MP to do for you. For example, you could ask them to write to their Party Leader e.g. Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn, and their environment team to support an ambitious Environment Act for all the reasons we've outlined below. You can also ask them what they think they can do to help make this happen too!
- Don’t worry if you’re not an expert: It’s your MP’s job to listen to you and you will probably know far more than them - just be passionate about the issue.
- Take a photo: Ask your MP if you can take a photo with them - this is a great way to let others know that people have been speaking to them about nature’s recovery, and to encourage them to do the same. MPs often like the publicity too!
Following up with your MP is a good way to keep your meeting fresh in their mind – sending them a quick ‘thank you’ email with the photo is a nice way of doing this.
It might also help to take brief notes on what was said in the meeting so you can remind them of anything they have committed to and hold them to it!
Top tips for meeting your MP
Writing to your MP
Here are some top tips for writing your letter, and how to find out who to send it to.
Writing your letter
- Include your name and address. They need to know you are a genuine constituent, and to have an address to send a reply to.
- Be succinct. Your letter doesn’t need to be more than two sides of A4 (in fact, we recommend it isn’t). Your letter will be clearer if you focus on one topic, e.g., The Environment Act or the badger cull.
- If it's your first time writing to your MP, be sure to introduce yourself with a paragraph about who you are and why you care about the wildlife in your area.
- Use the EPIC format. The acronym ‘EPIC’ is a useful way to remember how to structure the main part of your letter. After the introductory paragraph, your letter should follow this structure:
E = Engage your MP with a short summary. Get your MP’s attention with a dramatic fact or short statement. There are lots of hard-hitting facts about the decline of nature in our country, or about other causes you might be writing about:
• More than half of the UK's species are in decline;
• 44 million birds have gone from our countryside since the 1960s;
• Of the 218 countries assessed for ‘biodiversity intactness’, the UK is ranked 189, making it one of the most nature-depleted in the world;
• 97% of our flower-rich meadows have been destroyed;
• Only 1 in 20 cases of bTB herd infections are transmitted directly from badgers.
Pick something that is relevant to your letter that you have personal knowledge of - or one of these - that you really care about.
P = State the problem. Present the causes of the problem you just introduced. For example, in our campaign for a strong Environment Act we're arguing that a lack of strong legislation has allowed the destruction of nature and habitat for the sake of short economic gain. In the case of bovine TB and badgers, badger culling to eradicate bovine TB is scientifically unsound. Several scientific studies have demonstrated that culling increases the prevalence of bTB in the badger population, and results in it spreading to other areas.
I = Inform the MP about the solutions. If you're writing about the Environment Act, we believe a new Act will need:
• Nature Targets: legal targets for nature’s recovery that politicians must ultimately achieve and regularly report on progress towards;
• A Nature Recovery Network: a joined-up network of habitats that provide enough space for wildlife to recover and for people to thrive;
• Nature Watchdog: an independent body to help people challenge bad decisions made by Government and councils, which have a negative impact on wildlife and our natural environment.
Please do point them to our recent report ‘Towards A Wilder Britain’ here: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/2018-06/Nature_recovery_network_final.pdf The report includes ideas for specific wildlife goals which you can reference, but it’s also okay to keep it more general.
If you're writing about badgers, then we are calling for a vaccination programme, and for the focus of any control policies to be on cattle-to-cattle transmission, which is the main source of bTB infection. You can find out more information about our position, here.
C = Call to Action. Now you need to let your MP know what you want them to do about it all.
For our Environment Act campaign, we suggest you ask them to speak to their party leaders and DEFRA teams about the Environment Act, and the issues you’ve raised.
In relation to the badger cull, the Wildlife Trusts are calling for an immediate halt to the badger cull, investment in a vaccination programme and other long-term solutions, including farm biosecurity.
- Ask for a response. Make sure they know you want to be kept informed about this matter. However, even if you don't get a reply, your letter will be read and logged, so will still make a difference.
Sending your letter
Write to your MP about the Environment Act - top tips print-out
The Environment Act - Find out more
Why is an Environment Act needed?
We need wildlife.
Our natural world is valuable in its own right and is the foundation of our wellbeing - we depend on it and it depends on us. Without a healthy natural world the survival of humanity is at stake. By creating more space for nature, we can create a better world for people and wildlife.
Wildlife is in trouble.
From rivers and woodlands, to birds and flowers, our natural world is struggling. Over half the species assessed in the State of Nature report have suffered since the 1970s, with many of our much-loved animals struggling. Just some of the declines we have seen in recent years include:
- 66% decline in the number of barn owls since the 1930s
- 95% decline in the number of basking shark in UK waters since 1950s
- 40% decline in the number of Atlantic salmon since the 1970s
- 90% decline in the number of common frogs since the 1980s
- 90% decline in the number of water voles since the 1990s.
Wildlife needs us.
We can make a difference. A new and ambitious Environment Act can help reverse the trend of missing wildlife, setting out a plan for nature's recovery and creating a healthier natural world for us all.
What do we need an Environment Act to provide?
Critically, we need the Environment Act to give us:
Nature Targets: legal targets for nature's recovery that politicians must ultimately achieve and regularly report on progress towards e.g. safer air to breathe in our cities
A Nature Recovery Network: a joined-up network of habitats that provide enough space for wildlife to recover and for people to thrive. This has been dropped from the policy note in the draft Environment Bill published on 19 December 2018.
Nature Watchdog: an independent body to help people challenge bad decisions made by Government and councils, which have a negative impact on wildlife and our natural environment. The Green Watchdog proposed in the draft Environment Bill will be weaker than that which currently exists within the EU.
How does the proposed Environment Bill measure up?
The draft Environment Bill published on 19 December 2018 by the Government does not go far enough to tackle the serious environmental challenges we face or provide legal certainty for the future of our natural world, say The Wildlife Trusts. And nor does the accompanying policy note.
The Bill and policy note fall short in a number of ways:
1. The proposed green watchdog is too weak. Much more is needed if it is to bear any comparison to the environmental enforcement powers currently held by the European Commission and Court. To do this the watchdog would need to be more independent and able to hold the whole Government to account, including through having powers to issue fines if the Government fails to implement environmental legislation properly.
2. The Policy Note misses out nature recovery networks. We are disappointed that it fails to propose key measures needed to secure nature’s recovery; not least requiring the production of nature recovery network maps and compliance with these. (See The Wildlife Trusts’ Wilder Britain proposals.)
The Government has committed in its manifesto to being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it found it. Leaving the E.U. and then introducing a weak Environment Bill will not achieve this. The Wildlife Trusts believe that this Bill, so far, is not good enough.
Nothing can replace the full powers now held by the EU and European Court of Justice that have forced us to clean up our rivers and seas and protect key wildlife sites. But a really powerful independent watchdog would make a big difference.
We need you to talk to your MP to make sure these points are taken into account as the Environment Bill is being considered in the House of Parliament and the House of Lords. There is still time to influence the Environment Bill while it is going through this process, and to change it to include these vital measures before it is voted on later this year.
How does this fit in with what other charities and individuals are doing?
You may have noticed that there are a few voices speaking up for wildlife at the moment, as well as a number of reports from organisations such as the UN getting headlines. The Wildlife Trusts are part of a coalition called Greener UK with 12 other environmental charities campaigning for nature's recovery at what we see as a crucial point for its survival. Each of these charities has agreed to the same set of messages in calling for new laws to help restore our wildlife, but are running their own campaigns alongside ours, so that collectively we can reach as many people as possible, each playing to our own strengths e.g. WWF-UK's #FightforyourWorld and the RSPB's #LetNatureSing.
Concerned about the threat to our wildlife, a few independent people are also acting for nature's recovery. For example, Chris Packham recently launched 'A People's Manifesto for Wildlife', suggesting a range of policies. A copy of this independent document has been sent to every MP. There have also been huge peaceful protests by Extinction Rebellion, who shut down London for two weeks in April and who continue to peacefully disrupt around the country and across the world, and the #YouthStrikeforClimate, a worldwide, youth-led protest movement inspired by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.
When talking to your MP, it is worth bearing in mind some of these campaigns, as they may have received letters or been asked to do things in relation to them - so it might crop up in conversation.
Let us know how it goes!
If you've received a reply, or had a meeting with your MP, we want to know how it went. Please get in touch by email on firstname.lastname@example.org