CaBA Startup Conference - Summing Up


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A round-up of the topics and issues discussed during the day, and an analysis of the challenges, and potential successes, that lie ahead.

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CaBA Startup Conference - Summing Up

  1. 1. CaBA Launch Event: Summing Up A transcript of the words of Kathy Hughes WWF Catchment Based Approach Partnerships f or Action
  2. 2. Thanks to all the speakers today and thank you all for coming. I’m going to spend the next 10 minutes summarising what I’ve heard throughout the day and discussing the next steps that we need to take. SO WHAT HAVE WE HEARD TODAY? We’ve heard from Richard Cole in the first presentation that only 26% of rivers in England and Wales are considered to be in good health. And as you are all aware, by 2015, ALL water bodies should be in good ecological health, but the current Government aspiration is that only 31% will reach good health by 2015. We have also heard today that the water sector and agriculture are the cause of the two biggest reasons for our water bodies being in poor health. The water sector have responded and I was pleased to hear from Anglian Water today about the drivers which make them and other water companies keen to engage on the Catchment Based Approach (CaBA). Right now we are waiting for water company Business Plans to get sign-off by Ofwat, but with customer bills a current hot topic in parliament, there is a real risk that PR14 will not be allowed to deliver for our catchments. The CaBA should support water companies by helping them be ambitious in their business plans, and by supporting water companies when they are ambitious. Catchment Based Approach Partnerships f or Action
  3. 3. With regards to agriculture, I think we can all agree that the frustrating problem of diffuse pollution experienced in the Wye and Usk Foundation catchment is unfortunately not unique. And while there are great initiatives such as Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF), water company catchment management initiatives and the work done by your catchment groups (we have heard about the Tamar and Welland today for example), right now the reality is that diffuse agricultural pollution remains a significant problem and there is little clarity about when the ‘polluter pays’ and when ‘the polluter gets paid’ and thus the problem is persisting. But as mentioned today, there is a role for CaBA here also. For example as catchment managers you can identify and report diffuse pollution issues to the Environment Agency. I would add that you should also follow those reports up to find out the action it resulted in. In addition, alongside CSF, the CaBA may be the best mechanism for working with farmers to implement, support and fund voluntary action. But the bottom line is that when voluntary action doesn’t work, there must be a clear understanding about when and how statutory action will be enforced, and I urge Defra and the Environment Agency to take that message back to the Environment Minister and Secretary of State. Catchment Based Approach Partnerships f or Action
  4. 4. SO GETTING BACK TO WHY WE ARE HERE TODAY We believe that local partnership working and advocacy could unlock more ambitious outcomes for our rivers. This is because local partners know their rivers, the problems faced by their rivers and the potential solutions to overcome these problems, and local partners can do this with a level of granularity that isn’t available to the river basin level. So for many years we NGOs have been working together and with Defra and the Environment Agency, to advocate and facilitate for a framework for local partnership working. And so today is really exciting for us because we have a framework – the CaBA. As Richard Cresswell said, integrated catchment management has been attempted before, however the CaBA is different because it places communities and local partnership working at the heart of the catchment, and because of this it is really innovative in its ambition. This is why the CaBA is receiving global attention and many people are watching our progress to see if we will be successful. But while we have a framework in place, we still have a big hill to climb to ensure that the CaBA is successful, and the national CaBA Steering Group are working hard to ensure that you are supported. There are a number of barriers that still need to be overcome, we want, for example: Catchment Based Approach Partnerships f or Action
  5. 5. • Clarity on the terms of our partnership working. Specifically, we want to understand the criteria for partnership decision making at a local and national level – how can we ensure our voices are heard? • We also want clear success factors which will show if the Agency and Defra have been successful in supporting the CaBA. And let’s be clear what I mean here – this is not prescription at a local level, but it is making sure that the frameworks are in place so that your voice is heard. • To understand Defra’s ambition for the CaBA to be self-sustaining after 18 months. • To understand how partnerships will be funded after March 2014. • A framework for feeding catchment plan ambition into RBMPs. • We’ve heard today that your evidence can feed into decisions the Environment Agency make about catchments, but we as yet do not have a framework for this or any examples of it working in practice. • Guidelines for overcoming barriers such as the inability to gain Land Drainage Consent for CaBA delivery (which was raised today). We are working hard to address these issues and others to support you. But we are not just here to support you, we are also here to represent you, and so I invite you to come forward and share the challenges, opportunities and successes you have experienced so we can help facilitate national responses. Catchment Based Approach Partnerships f or Action
  6. 6. SO WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS? We’ve heard a lot about River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) today and that is because they really are the way to secure improvements for your catchments. In fact the first real test of the CaBA is whether local catchment partnership groups are able to influence RBMPs by including your catchment ambitions. If we can win the first test, then the CaBA could go on to true integrated catchment management. It was great to hear Paul Bryson and Richard Cresswell from the Environment Agency today stating that they want to work with catchment groups to develop shared objectives, agree on priorities, targets and action. And as Richard said, your voice counts and is important to the Environment Agency. If we could repeat the win of the local group Richard mentioned that advocated for change following on from failing Bathing Water objectives, just think what that could mean for our rivers! Paul stated that the way we should engage with the Agency on RBMPs is through the Agency Catchment Co-ordinators so I urge you to get in touch with them (if you haven’t already). The CaBA Steering Group will be working with the Agency to develop a clear framework that links local catchment groups to the RBMPs and a clear framework for decision making. Catchment Based Approach Partnerships f or Action
  7. 7. One thing that was raised today is the 10% cuts that will be experienced by the Environment Agency over the next year. And let’s not forget that this is on top of cuts they suffered only a few years ago in 2011. For the CaBA to be successful we need a strong and experienced Environment Agency and so this isn’t good news - so we should ensure that we have a united front on this. SO FINALLY The take home message today is that CaBA is an exciting opportunity to enable you to make important decisions for your rivers – and that your voice is important and valued. The CaBA is a long term approach, but the first test of the CaBA framework is almost upon us – the RBMPs. I urge you to get involved in RBMPs and start to engage with Agency Catchment Co-ordinators to ensure that the 2015 RBMPs contain your ambition for your catchments. And shout loudly because by being the voice for our rivers, we add weight to all the considerations that the Environment Minister must think about when making decisions about what will and won’t get done out of all the action that is included in the RBMPs. So I urge you to embrace this opportunity and get your voice heard because if we shout loud enough and make this work, then we give the Government the mandate to continue to support us, so this means that the health of our rivers really could be in our hands. Catchment Based Approach Partnerships f or Action