Report: Government stalling on 2030 nature targets

Today (14 December), the Wildlife and Countryside Link, in collaboration with RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust, has released a new report tracking the progress made by the Government since it signed a global pledge to halt the decline of nature by 2030 at COP15 last year.

As part of the Global Biodiversity Framework, the UK agreed to 23 nature targets with a deadline for the end of this decade. The progress tracker reveals that 18 of the targets assessed are not presently on track.

According to the report, some progress has been made on seven targets with more action required, while progress on the remaining 11 targets has either stalled or is going backwards.

Wildlife and Countryside Link’s chief executive officer Richard Benwell said: “This tracker shows that, since the Environment Act was agreed in 2021, Government environmental ambition has been in hibernation. The policies aren’t in place to meet any of the key pledges made in Montreal last year.

“A spring revival in investment and action for nature-friendly farming, habitat restoration, and marine protection is needed to meet the targets and bring life to a greener economy.”

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.

Policies lag, progress stalls

However, the tracker highlights that the nation lacks policies to achieve this goal, with merely 38% of sites currently in a good condition.

It also emphasises that the 2027 target to bring a majority of rivers and streams to ‘Good Ecological Status’ is unlikely to be met, with a ‘Good Chemical Status’ currently tracking to be achieved after 2063.

The report notes that the high levels of nitrogen, ammonia and phosphorus pose a severe threat to the air quality and biodiversity, with the current regulations not doing enough to limit their use, enforce restrictions or incentivise the uptake of less harmful alternatives.

Policies that have gone backwards in terms of progress pertains to chemical pollution and sustainable agriculture.

According to the report, the recent roll back on net-zero policies by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as well as the expansion of new oil and gas licensing have further backtracked climate-related nature progress.

Nevertheless, certain areas such as access to nature in urban areas and finance for nature have seen some progress.

The report anticipates the Biodiversity Net Gain policy, which is due to come into force in January 2024, to accelerate the progress on habitat improvements across the country including urban areas and new housing development.

According to the data from State of Nature, the UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries, with more than one in seven native species facing extinction.

As the 2030 deadline remains seven harvests away, the nature groups are calling on the Government to deliver rapid action on its nature commitments, while mobilising investment in nature solutions to pollution.

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