Today (Monday 9th May) marks six months since the landmark Environment Act was passed – the first dedicated environmental legislation for nearly 30 years and the first time England has set legally binding targets for nature’s recovery.
It is only now that the details of these targets are being discussed and a consultation is due to close on 11th May to assess how ambitious these targets will be. It’s crunch time for nature.
Unfortunately, the long-term target currently being proposed for nature’s recovery aims to have just 10% more nature in 2042 than 2030 levels – by which time the state of our natural world is expected to have declined even further.
This could mean that wildlife is less abundant by 2042 than it is now, after another decade of decline, and clearly falls short of the UK Government’s promise to pass on nature in a better condition to future generations.
UK nature is already in dire straits. This country is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world: 41% of species are in decline and 15% at risk of extinction. It’s hardly surprising when you consider that 97% of lowland meadows – home to wildflowers, mammals and birds – have disappeared, as have 80% of heathlands – and rivers are in deep trouble too.
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust recently restated its commitment to nature’s recovery in its Wilder Nottinghamshire 2030 strategy and is working with partners across the county to make this ambition a reality. It is working with landowners to create and restore habitats and last year, brought beavers back to the county for the first time in 400 years.
The new target that the UK Government has proposed is too weak and unambitious – England would have even less wildlife in 20 years’ time than the much-depleted state that we have now.
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust Chief Executive Paul Wilkinson says:
“Over the next decade we need to trigger a seismic shift in our collective behaviours to reverse the spiralling loss of nature and prevent catastrophic ecological and climate breakdown. What we do now will affect us, and generations to come. High standards for the proposed Environment Act targets are essential to trigger action for nature, but the current proposals mean that the UK Government’s clear commitment to leave the environment in a better state of the next generation is in jeopardy.”
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust fears that its aspirations for nature’s recovery and those of thousands of supporters could be undermined by a weakened Environment Act. The charity believes that without ambitious targets it will be difficult to deliver the speed of progress needed to put nature into recovery and efforts to bring more businesses and other partners onside to tackle the climate and nature crisis could be severely hampered.
“Can you imagine the reaction if any Government were to publicly state a commitment to ensuring that hospital waiting times will be no shorter in 2042 than they are today; or said that they were working to ensure that levels of child poverty are no better in two decades’ time? There would rightly be public outrage, so we’re urging everyone to sign our petition calling for stronger targets to put nature on the path to recovery before the situation gets even worse.”
Read The Wildlife Trusts’ briefing on the Nature Recovery Green Paper and Environment Act target consultations here.
The Wildlife Trusts are rallying public support for stronger targets to help nature recover here: wildlifetrusts.org/nature-deserves-better.
Over 28,000 people have already signed the petition in the UK.