The government will not be able to meet its nature targets by 2030, even if they are “embarrassingly poor”, the shadow environment minister and leading conservation groups have said. wildlife.
Next week, at the Cop15 biodiversity conference in Montreal, Labor will unveil a “joint, detailed science plan to address the climate and ecological emergency”. The plan will aim to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, rather than just stopping it, which is the current government target.
As Therese Coffey heads into COP15, the environment secretary comes under scrutiny for the government’s nature record and plans. The government set a species abundance target, which suggested the UK would halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 and commit to increasing wildlife abundance by 10% by 2042, compared to 2030 levels.
Nevertheless, experts are unconvinced that the government can quickly halt biodiversity loss. They expect that by 2030, even if the loss is halted, biodiversity will be far less abundant than it is today. Therefore, a 10% increase from 2030 levels could lead to a decrease in biodiversity by 2042 compared to what we have today.
Alex Sobel, the Shadow Minister for Nature Restoration and the Home Environment, who will also be in Montreal, said: “It is clear that the government will not even be able to achieve its embarrassing objectives of protecting the natural environment of the UK. Before COP15, the UK should have been at the forefront of biodiversity, challenging other countries and pushing nature-based solutions, but the government is not treating it with the seriousness it needs.
He fears the UK will not be able to dominate the world stage at the nature summit because the country’s biodiversity is so depleted. Sobel said: ‘The Conservatives promised the Environment Act would deliver the most ambitious environmental agenda of any country on Earth, but they have failed to do the bare minimum. They missed the legal deadline to introduce environmental targets, and it looks increasingly unlikely that they will meet the promised 30 by 30 deadline; a monumental dereliction of duty.
“COP15 is an opportunity for countries to come together to find and agree on solutions to the major challenges facing our planet. But the message to international friends, partners and allies is that the UK is happy to tackle biodiversity challenges on the road.
Labor is considering a tougher ban on burning peatlands, some of Britain’s most important carbon sinks. The current law, put in place by the Conservative government of Boris Johnson, only prohibits the burning of deep peat vegetation on a protected site without a permit. This allows a large amount of peat from England to be degraded.
“Peat is an extremely important carbon store for the UK. The government has an arbitrary policy full of loopholes and no proper enforcement,” Sobel said.
He wants to review and possibly expand the nature-friendly Conservative farm payment schemes to include, for example, the creation of hedgerows. “Unfortunately the UK is one of the most nature-poor countries in the world. Going forward, we need to focus on improving our regeneration, reforestation and biodiversity, including hedgerows We should be the change we want to see – action at home can show the world how nature can be practically experienced through government.
“Labour is committed to properly testing every nature policy that halts and reverses biodiversity loss by 2030, to the benefit of everyone and the planet. Labor will also introduce a clean air law to clean the air in our cities.
It would also consider further restricting the use of trawlers in the ocean with the aim of rewilding the seas, protecting them from the most destructive fishing techniques.
Sobel said: ‘Conservatives have failed to protect our seas. Trawler nets have ripped kelp from the seabed and harmful sediments are regularly dumped by dredging activities. A sustained program of rewilding the oceans must be part of any plan to tackle the climate emergency and yet it is barely talked about in public policy.
Conservation organizations agree government targets are not enough and 20 scientists are protesting outside the offices of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in London because they believe the government has not taken the necessary measures to protect nature. They include leading experts in ecology and conservation science who have worked with or advised Defra before.
Elliot Chapman-Jones, public affairs manager at Wildlife Trusts, said: “We are losing nature at a faster rate than at any time in our history. Wildlife populations are the lowest they have ever been, and once common species could be lost forever. Halting this catastrophic decline by the end of the decade will require urgent and transformative action.
“Yet progress is being held back by the government’s culture of delay – failing to put in place critical environmental policies on time and falling short of their pledge to protect at least 30% of land and seas for nature from here 2030.
“Current plans will mean even fewer wildlife in 20 years than the very depleted state we have now. A true ‘world-leading’ target must aim to leave the next generation with more of nature, not less.
Rosie Hails, Director of Nature and Science at the National Trust, said: “Stopping the decline of nature is urgent and essential – and it shouldn’t take another eight years to halt the decline in numbers. But at the current rate of decline, it’s going to take a huge effort to even reach that goal. With precious wildlife facing threats from all sides, a daunting task lies ahead.
Defra has been contacted for comment.
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