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Double down on delivery or Government nature targets will just be daydreams, says environment coalition

18 January 2024

  • The Office for Environmental Protection warns today that Government risks missing its targets to restore nature.
  • Government must scale up and speed up delivery of the Environment Improvement Plan, which lacks evidence and accountability.
  • Wildlife and Countryside Link says many milestones have already been missed, and rapid action and investment is needed to halt nature losses by 2030.

    In the first major review of the Environment Improvement Plan, Government advisors warn that the Government is off-track, and risks missing the legally-binding target to halt nature decline by 2030.

    The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has concluded that Government needs to speed up and scale up delivery. It also warns that the plan lacks transparency and accountability. This follows its 2023 report, which said progress had, ‘fallen far short of what is needed to meet Government’s ambition to leave the environment in a better state’.

    Wildlife and Countryside Link is calling on Government to double down on delivery.

    Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:

    “Government must double down on delivery of its nature promises or hopes of meeting the positive promises in the Environment Act will remain daydreams.

    “A rapid delivery plan of action and investment is needed to create an economy that can thrive with nature, instead of at nature’s expense. This plan is supposed to be the flagship of reforms to leave the environment in a better state for future generations. But instead, Government is bobbing along with business as usual.

    “We’ve already seen Government fall behind on key elements of the plan: the land use strategy, the chemicals strategy, and the pesticides reduction strategy are all missing in action. Major measures like the deposit return scheme, restrictions on lead ammunition and the horticultural peat ban are delayed. Much more ambition is needed for nature-friendly farming and making polluters pay.”

    “Government should scale up investment in nature with a £1bn a year “Wild Isles Fund” to restore wildlife, and more ambitious and generous support for nature-friendly farming. It should speed up action for access to nature and stronger “polluter pays” responsibilities for big business.

    “The seeds of these ideas are in the plan, but they’ll simply lie dormant without leadership on delivery.”

    Key targets for thriving plants and wildlife

    Relevant Environment Act targets, binding in law:

    1. To halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.

    2. To ensure that species abundance in 2042 is greater than in 2022, and at least 10% greater than 2030.

    3. Improve the Red List Index of endangered species by 2042.

    4. To restore or create in excess of 500,000 hectares of a range of wildlife-rich habitat outside protected sites by 2042, compared to 2022 levels.

    5.That 70% of the designated features in Marine Protected Areas to be in favourable condition by 2042, with the remainder in recovering condition.

    Wildlife and Countryside Link is calling for the following improvements to be made to the Environment Improvement Plan (EIP):

    1. The Government should set out cross-Departmental delivery framework, with clear timelines and accountability for implementation of key actions.

    2. It should scale up and speed up delivery of priority actions, including:

    a. Scaling up investment in nature, with a £1bn annual Wild Isles Fund.

    b. Scaling up nature-friendly farming, with higher standards and incentives

    c. Speeding up private sector investment, with corporate “polluter pays” plans

    d. Speeding up action for access to nature, focusing on nature-deprived areas.

    3. The Government should publish evidence of how actions in the plan add up to delivery of the Environment Act targets.


    Notes to Editors:

    Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 82 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. Our members campaign to conserve, enhance and access our landscapes, animals, plants, habitats, rivers and seas. Together we have the support of over eight million people in the UK and directly protect over 750,000 hectares of land and 800 miles of coastline.

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