The government risks “major embarrassment on the world stage” at the upcoming UN biodiversity summit which kicks off in Montreal, Canada, next week, campaigners have warned.
The summit, the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (Cop15) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, comes as the world grapples with a “biological annihilation” of species worldwide, amounting to a sixth mass extinction , scientists have warned.
Despite being one of the most environmentally deprived countries in the world, the UK government is at risk of scrapping ‘over a thousand’ laws that protect the environment, including those protecting wild places and wildlife , and ensure minimum standards of water quality and pollution.
It does so under the Retained EU Law Bill, legislation that is expected to be in place by the end of the year and will allow for the repeal and eventual replacement of laws to which the UK was subject during its residence in the European Union.
Campaigners have warned that the swift scrapping of EU legislation could potentially undo decades of progress and render the government’s own environmental commitments useless.
According to environmental law charity Client Earth, the bill means the UK “could fall into legal chaos and its climate and biodiversity targets could be blunted”.
Laws at risk include those that provide the legal basis for regulations that protect species and habitats, limit air pollution, drinking water and river water quality.
Along with other failures to meet legislative targets designed to protect the natural world, the UK is not on track to meet its own conservation targets, the Wildlife Trusts have warned.
The organization cited an Environmental Protection Bureau analysis warning that the government has “a tendency to miss legislative deadlines”, which compounds the problem.
Missed or delayed policies include the 30×30 target trumpeted by Boris Johnson, to protect 30% of land and seas by 2030. Currently this is just 3.2% with no clear plan on how to reach 30% over the next seven years.
Meanwhile, new designations of highly protected marine areas have yet to be announced, there is confusion over environmental protection payments to farmers to replace EU farm subsidies, a ban of horticultural peat use has yet to come into effect and the designation of beavers as recognized native wildlife means that they are not yet officially allowed to roam in the wild.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said the government’s track record was strong at making headline-grabbing environmental announcements, but then weak at implementing them.
He said: “When this does happen, the policies are watered down so dramatically that they bear little resemblance to the ambition of the original promise.
“The UK government is setting a terrible example to the rest of the world,” he said.
“It is putting nature in reverse at a time when it should be setting a global example at COP15. It must take urgent action at home to restore nature, otherwise we cannot expect other countries are heeding calls for ambitious global policies that help us tackle the climate crisis.
“If the UK wants to be a global leader on climate and nature, it must abandon the appalling EU Holdback Bill that threatens to remove or weaken laws that protect places and species. wild. It also needs to reward farmers for restoring the environment, not polluting it, and it needs to get bogged down in its long-awaited to-do list ASAP. Otherwise, we are ill-equipped to deal with the crisis on our doorstep let alone advise the rest of the world.
The UK is one of the most impoverished countries in the world with, on average, only half its biodiversity, well below the global average of 75%.
According to previous research by scientists from institutions such as the Natural History Museum in London, the UK has “leaded the world” in the destruction of the natural environment, with centuries of agricultural expansion, massive programs road and railroad construction, overfishing, the enormous impacts of the industrial revolution and the destruction of forests and other wilderness, all taking a heavy toll on our island’s once abundant wildlife.
Across Europe, only Ireland and Malta perform less well.
Since the early 1970s, there has been a 70% drop in the global populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.
Around 1 million animal and plant species out of a total of 8 million species are now threatened with extinction.
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