BACKGROUND

We wish to build on the existing positive steps that have been taken at a local, national and international level to tackle non-agricultural pesticide use in towns. Much has been achieved already but there is still a huge amount of work and awareness building to be done. In particular, we note the following recent developments in Cambridge and at a local and international level.

CAMBRIDGE

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Cambridge’s declaration of a Climate Emergency on 21 February 2019 and a Biodiversity Emergency on 22 May 2019. In recognition of the latter, the Council pledged to ‘make the Council estate more hospitable to a wide range of plants and animals’ and to ‘work in partnership with institutions, schools, businesses and community groups to raise awareness and encourage wider biodiversity action across the City’. 

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Cambridge City Council’s decision in 2019 to stop applying glyphosate-based herbicides in the city’s parks, open spaces and children’s playgrounds, and the positive impact this has had on the biodiversity and appearance of these areas. 

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Cambridge’s unique position as a historical city that boasts twelve Local Nature Reserves, that is increasing its commitment to wildflower meadows in its city parks through its work with Cambridge On the Verge, and that centres on the beautiful River Cam.

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Cambridge University's commitment to environmental and planetary health issues as demonstrated through initiatives such as  Cambridge ZeroCambridge Centre for Climate ScienceNature, Health and Built Environment Research Group, the Cambridge Climate Lecture Series, the university's pioneering sustainable development in Eddington, and student activist groups such as the Carbon Zero Society.   

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Recent attempts by some Cambridge Colleges to increase biodiversity within campus:

 

UK AND EU 

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PAN UK's Pesticide Free Towns campaigns to stop Local Authorities using glyphosate based herbicides on their roads, pavements and open spaces have highlighted localised solutions to the global climate change, biodiversity and public health crisis.  Notable case studies include Bristol, Brighton and nearby Saffron Walden.  

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PAN-UK's recent campaign to tackle  supermarket pesticide marketing has highlighted the way in which pesticides are normalised by being sold on cleaning-product shelves or alongside garden plants.  

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PAN-UK's recent campaign aimed at tackling herbicide use within schools provides information for parents and pupils of how to encourage schools to ditch herbicides from their grounds. More information here.  See also our schools campaign for discussion of how this emphasis on herbicides in schools needs to be extended to commonly used insecticides, such as pyrethroid and carbamate-based insecticide powders used to treat ants. 

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Growing awareness of the important contribution of wild grasses and flowers in roadside verges to biodiversity, human health and wellbeing, and the positive example set by cities such as Zurich that have embraced the visual and biodiverse beauty of their wild verges that also double at later stages in their lifecycle as nutrient-rich feed for cattle, while urban plants and wild grasses are frequently seen in pavements and tree wells.

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Successful UK-based verge management projects such as Rotherham Council’s popular 8-mile ring road wildflower meadow which has improved biodiversity and saved up to £25,000 in mowing costs; Sheffield’s Living Highways Project which shows how councils can work together with contractors to deliver a verge management plan that boosts wildlife.

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Legislation in January 2019 in France and more recently in parts of Belgium has brought about bans of all private use of non-agricultural pesticides in homes and gardens, culminating in June 2020 in the unanimous vote by the French Citizen’s Assembly to recognise ecocide as a criminal offence. Such bans have been deemed necessary so as to compliment widespread cessation of Local Authority use of herbicide-based weed-control in municipal spaces.  For individual case-studies from Europe and varying approaches to eliminating herbicides from different cities, see PAN-Europe's summary here  and here.  

Agriculture

Ongoing campaigns in the UK and Europe aimed at highlighting the dangers of agricultural pesticides to rural populations. In the UK, a recently proposed amendment bill that puts human health at the heart of agricultural pesticide spraying policy.

Environment Pollution

On 14 October 2020, a European Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability was launched with the aim of minimizing human exposure to harmful substances and reducing related illness.  Described as the ‘most transformative chemical policy initiative in 20 years’, it takes a multifold approach to minimizing lifetime toxic exposures, and crucially going beyond generic risk assessment standards based on carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic (CMR) chemicals to other hazards, such as endocrine disruption, persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity, target organ toxicity and immunotoxicity and for the regulation of all consumer products.This is great news for the EU but less so for a Brexit-bound UK that has been accused of disassociating itself from profit-limiting environmental controls