New environment targets announced which campaigners say aren’t enough

The UK government has laid out new legally binding environment targets today, but campaigners say they don’t go far enough. 

Some of the main targets of the Environment Act include halting the decline of species by 2030 and increasing populations by at least 10%, restoring waterways by tackling pollution from sewers and mines and cutting exposure to air pollutant PM2.5. 

Increasing tree and woodland cover to 16.5% of total land in England by 2050 are also part of the plans, as well as halving the amount of waste per person sent to residual treatment and restoring 70% of protected marine areas to a favourable condition by 2042.  

The targets were originally meant to be published before October 31st, but DEFRA failed to meet the deadline, leaving environmental campaigners concerned about the government’s priorities. 

green mountains beside lake under blue sky and white clouds during daytime

Full details will be included in the Environmental Improvement Plan which is due to be published in January 2023.  

Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey, speaking at the UN Convention in Montreal today, said: ‘We are committed to leaving our natural world in a better state for future generations, and today we are laying the foundations that will help deliver on this commitment. 

‘These targets are ambitious and will be challenging to achieve – but they will drive our efforts to restore our natural environment, protect our much-loved landscapes and green spaces and marine environment, as well as help tackle climate change.’  

However, the reception from the CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, Richard Benwell, has not been as positive, as he believes the targets are a ‘job half done.’  

He said: ‘Environment Act targets are more than political aspirations. They are meant to provide legal certainty, clarity for business, and shared purpose across Government. So a package without targets for protected sites and overall water quality is a job half done. Ministers are in Montreal now promising to protect 30% of the land and sea for nature by 2030. To publish targets at home without a commitment to improve the condition of our most important wildlife sites is a world away from that rhetoric. 

‘In January, DEFRA is legally required to review whether the targets would deliver a significant environmental improvement. The 2030 target to halt the decline of species is a real positive, but without protected sites and water quality targets, the package does not live up to that test. DEFRA should commit to consult and fill these gaps without delay.’ 

Photo by Gary Ellis


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