Charities urge Boris Johnson to create ‘new era for nature’ post-Covid-19

The National Trust, WWF and RSBP are among the 27 major charities urging Boris Johnson to promise to set ambitious targets for the conservation and restoration of UK nature at the UN biodiversity summit in Kunming later this month.

Charities urge Boris Johnson to create ‘new era for nature’ post-Covid-19

The UK has failed to meet any of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity targets agreed upon in 2010

In a letter sent to the Prime Minister this week, the charities are urging Johnson to commit to protecting at least 30% of the UK’s seas and terrestrial habitats by 2030. Such a commitment would ring-fence these habitats and protect them from extractive businesses. Johnson should also support an equivalent or more ambitious target on a global level, the letter recommends.

The UN’s draft 10-year strategy on biodiversity is headlined by a commitment to protect 30% of terrestrial and marine habitats within this timeframe. A recent major analysis found that meeting this commitment would not only majorly contribute to efforts to prevent Earth’s sixth mass extinction but generate a $500bn economic opportunity.

Also included in the charities’ letter is a recommendation for Johnson’s Cabinet to ensure that any new targets are legally binding by enshrining them in national law under the Environment Bill. Last month, the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed that it is developing time-bound numerical targets around nature under the bill, to be set in statute by the end of October 2022.  

The charities have also written to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill with the same recommendations.

Recent RSPB research which concluded that the UK had not met any of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity targets agreed upon in 2010 is cited in the letter, as is the UN’s fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook report, which was published on Tuesday (15 September). It revealed that no or negative progress had been made towards 16 of the targets on a global scale. The remaining four only experienced partial success.

“The failure to meet these targets is a wake-up call for nature that our leaders must answer before it is too late,” Wildlife and Countryside Link’s (WCL) chief executive Richard Benwell said.

“Sometimes losses have been sudden, sometimes they have been slow, but the unassailable trend in our wildlife populations is down. Unless we turn things around, we face economic and environmental catastrophe. We are calling on the Prime Minister to help start a new era for wildlife.”

Aside from WCL’s parent organisation Environment Links UK, the letter has been signed by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, The Angling Trust, A Rocha UK, Bat Conservation Trust, Born Free Foundation, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, ClientEarth, CPRE, Four Paws, Greenpeace UK, League Against Cruel Sports, The Mammal Society, The National Trust, The Open Spaces Society, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Plantlife, RSPB, RSPCA, Salmon & Trout Conservation, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, WWF UK, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), Wildlife and Countryside Link, Wildlife Gardening Forum, The Woodland Trust and Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Nature on the primetime

The letter has been published just three days after David Attenborough’s latest documentary, Extinction: The Facts aired on the BBC.

The hour-long programme highlighted the fact that biodiversity loss is currently occurring and unprecedented speeds – 100 times faster than the natural rate – and across an unprecedented breadth of species, with every category affected.

edie has published a blog outlining the communications lessons which sustainability and energy professionals can learn from the masterful documentary. You can read it in full here.

Sarah George

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