‘Labour are the conservers’: Shadow secretary pledges to reverse nature degradation in UK

Labour’s shadow environment secretary has stated that the Party would deliver on the UK’s commitment to protect at least 30% of the land and sea by 2030, in the same week that investors published new benchmarking tools to assess corporate approaches to nature and biodiversity.

‘Labour are the conservers’: Shadow secretary pledges to reverse nature degradation in UK

Steve Reed, Labour MP for Croydon North and the shadow environment secretary, has stated that, if elected, the Party would introduce new measures to protect and restore nature in the UK.

Chief among his aims is to introduce a land-use framework to focus on nature protection to deliver an internationally agreed target of protecting at least 30% of the land and sea by 2030.

Reed vowed that Labour would clean up rivers by placing new measures on water companies to make bosses “personally criminally liable if they refuse to stop illegal sewage dumping”.

“Nature is under threat. The Conservatives have left Britain one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world,” Reed wrote in an op-ed for the Guardian. “Almost half of our bird species and a quarter of our mammal species are at risk of extinction. Precious landscapes in our national parks are in decline. And our rivers, lakes and seas are awash with record levels of toxic sewage.

“The Conservatives have irresponsibly positioned themselves against nature. They let water companies profit from filling our rivers with sewage and tried to weaken environmental laws on new housing developments that risked irreparable damage to our waterways. It’s time to change course. The next Labour government will fully commit to restoring and protecting nature. Labour are the conservers, not the Conservatives.”

Reed’s 30% target refers to the UN’s international treaty aimed at halting and reversing biodiversity loss. The UK and more than 190 other countries are signed up to the Convention on Biological Diversity. To protect

Last year, the House of Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee stated that only 6.5% of the land in England is currently protected in alignment with the treaty.

Labour’s climate pledges have been in the spotlight in recent months, after watering down some ambitious spending plans.

In February, party leader Keir Starmer announced that a £28bn green investment commitment will be cut by more than half, adding that all of Labour’s environmental policies are still being actively considered.

The multibillion-pound green investment plan was first announced in 2021 by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves at the Labour Party Conference. At the time, Reeves stated that Labour “would not shirk our responsibility to future generations and workers and businesses in Britain”.

The Party hasn’t explicitly outlined any nature-based targets aside from what Reed included in his op-ed.

Reed noted how public and electric transport could clean the air and how the natural environment can, and would under Labour, play a role in capturing and restoring carbon.

“Better public transport and speeding up the switch from petrol to electric vehicles will clean up our air,” Reed added. “Building natural flood defences and planting more trees will reduce the damage caused by severe rainstorms. Nurturing nature-rich habitats, including wetlands, forests and peat bogs, will capture and store carbon. Introducing a land-use framework will ensure we steward the land responsibly while meeting the many demands we place on it.”

As per the Environment Act 2021, the Government has a legal duty to stop the decline of species abundance and protect 30% of the land and sea for nature.

Charities including the Wildlife and Countryside Link, in collaboration with RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust, released findings tracking the progress made by the Government since it signed a global pledge to halt the decline of nature by 2030 at COP15.

The overarching finding from the charities was that the Government has historically stalled on delivering against nature goals.

New nature benchmarks

In related news, Nature Action 100, a global investor-led engagement initiative, has this week unveiled a new set of benchmarks designed to assess the nature-related ambition and action of the initiative’s 100 companies.

The Nature Action 100 Company Benchmark is comprised of six indicators covering Ambition, Assessment, Targets, Implementation, Governance, and Engagement along with more than 50 metrics to analyse performance.

Companies will be assessed on the quality of their disclosures and actions, which is designed to be aligned with existing nature frameworks including the Science Based Targets Network and Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures.

Adam Kanzer, Head of Stewardship, Americas, BNP Paribas Asset Management, and Co-chair of the Nature Action 100 Steering Group, said: “In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) put the world on notice that we are in crisis – a man-made mass extinction event threatens to permanently alter life on Earth, with catastrophic consequences for every aspect of our lives, and our economies.

“Today, Nature Action 100 launches a public benchmark designed to measure corporate progress on the road to reversing nature loss by 2030, aligned with a set of six high-level investor expectations. If we are to protect our companies, portfolios and economies from nature loss, we must focus first and foremost on the drivers of that risk. The orientation of our benchmark is therefore clear and represents a consensus view – impacts to nature must be prioritised.”

Nature Action 100 will release the first company assessments based on the benchmark later this year.

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