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UK Government must publish more than biodiversity ‘wish list’ this week

Following parliamentary debate on Britain’s efforts to deliver action for species conservation, nature groups are calling for a robust plan to reverse the decline of ecosystems, habitat, and wildlife. 

yellow flowers

The UK Government is expected to publish its roadmap on Wednesday 22nd May, setting out how global targets for nature can be met, as agreed at COP15. 

Among other things, these commit to the 30-by-30 framework, whereby 30% of all land and 30% of the seas are designated as environmentally protected by 2030. The decline of species should also have stopped by this point. 

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2020 17% of land was considered protected, and Pew reports that just 7.5% of oceans had similar status at that time. Meanwhile, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity estimated that by 2007 around 150 species were becoming extinct every day, a rate that will increase with the escalation of climate change. 

There are also concerns regarding the definition of protected status. Environment Journal recently reported on the 33,000 hours of trawler fishing that took place in ‘protected’ British waters in 2023 alone. Among other things, the practice leads to high rates of bycatch and the damage to the seabed.

Previous analysis has shown that in England, none of the environmental targets for biodiversity and nature recovery, as set out at COP15, are likely to be met with the current trajectory. The UK as a whole is now one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet, which campaigners argue means Westminster should want to play a leading role globally in terms of recovery.

‘COP15 saw the agreement of strong targets for nature around the world. The UK should be proud of its role in this but nearly eighteen months later and we’re still waiting on firm plans on how nature will actually be saved,’ said Richard Benwell, Chief Executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link. ‘The UK public is strongly behind action for nature which would restore dwindling wildlife, give us happier healthier communities and have huge benefits including farming. The Government must wake up to this now and give nature recovery the action and funding it needs.’

Among other things, nature groups are calling on more cohesion and realistic plans to meet the 30-by-30 target, new funding for sustainable farming, all UK Governments to create binding targets for species recovery set against costed delivery, and sustainable management and restoration of marine ecosystems. 

‘It is clear that current plans simply do not go far enough to tackle the scale and urgency of the nature and climate crisis. We now have an opportunity for UK countries to demonstrate world-leading action to protect and restore nature and plug the gap between those commitments and existing plans,’ said Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of the RSPB. We need governments across the UK to share vital details of timely, ambitious action plans and funding to save our natural world. Nature cannot afford to wait any longer.’

Pressure has also been mounting from outside climate and environmental sectors. Recently introduced Biodiversity Net Gain regulations for UK property developers and planners were met with widespread criticism over a lack of clarity and preparedness within affected industries. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 people signed an open letter last month, demanding an end to the collapse of nature. 

‘This is a key opportunity for the UK to be a world leader on nature, with strong policies here that could spur action in other countries too,’ added Simon Dowell, Conservation Science & Policy Director at Chester Zoo. ‘And closer to home, with iconic species from hedgehogs to curlews disappearing at an alarming rate we need Government action now to ensure that future generations can enjoy a life with more nature.’

More on biodiversity: 

UK Government faces high court and judicial review for climate failures

How the pandemic helped animal welfare, public health and the climate crisis

Royal Town Planning Institute issues warning on lack of BNG guidance



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