UK 'lost decade' in preventing biodiversity collapse

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Seabirds on the Shiant Isles

Seabirds on Shiant Isles

RSPB says UK failing to protect land and sea habitats and reverse the slide towards extinction for threatened species.

We have to put our money where our mouth is and use the next decade to do something truly impressive.

The UK has failed to meet global targets to boost nature, conservationists have warned ahead of a United Nations report on tackling wildlife loss.

The RSPB said the UK was failing on goals to protect land and sea habitats and reverse the slide towards extinction for threatened species, and was not putting enough money into protecting nature.

Government analysis of its progress under international goals agreed in 2010 to reverse declines in nature by this year shows it is meeting or exceeding five out of 20 targets to help wildlife and habitats.


But an assessment by the RSPB suggests the UK is doing worse than the official analysis, and is making no progress or is going in the wrong direction in six areas.

The conservation charity warns the last 10 years have been a “lost decade” for nature and is calling on the government to push for international action and implement new legally binding national targets, backed up with sufficient funding.

The call comes ahead of the publication of the UN’s latest Global Biodiversity Outlook report, which will warn that the world has failed to halt declines in the natural world.

Countries agreed a series of goals to protect nature, known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, a decade ago under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with a deadline of 2020 to achieve them by.

A major conference in China was due to set post-2020 targets this year, but it has been postponed due to the pandemic.


In the UK, the RSPB warns there has been no progress on the target to prevent extinction and improve the fortunes of threatened species, with two-fifths of species in decline since 1970, a trend which is continuing.

And not enough land or ocean is being protected or managed for nature, the RSPB said, despite the government reporting that 28 percent of land and 24 percent of the seas is under protection.

A report from the charity says the figures include designations such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but many areas do not provide for nature.

The RSPB points to upland peatland, an important habitat but much of which is in poor health, and the largest Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in England, the Wash, where populations of threatened birds such as redshanks are declining sharply.

Meanwhile, effective management of marine protected areas is “severely lacking”, the report warns.


And the UK has failed to mobilise the financial resources needed to protect nature, with public funding in decline in the past decade, the RSPB said.

The charity is calling on the government to back ambitious global goals and national legally binding targets to restore species and habitats, and a UK-wide commitment to conserve 30 percent of land and seas by 2030.

It says there needs to be a strong Fisheries Bill which helps marine areas recover, fundamental reform of agriculture policy to support nature-friendly farming, and a “substantial” increase in funding for conservation.

The RSPB says the UK needs to spend £2.9 billion a year over the next decade on environmental land management, including £615 million annually restoring and creating habitats.

The charity’s chief executive Beccy Speight said: “The UK is not alone in failing to meet the ambitious targets set out 10 years ago, but it is now time that the high ambitions set by successive governments becomes action at home as well as leading the international effort.


“Every country in the UK must create legally binding targets to restore nature, invest in nature and green jobs, and support farmers to produce healthy food that’s good for people, climate and wildlife.

“We have to put our money where our mouth is and use the next decade to do something truly impressive.”

An Environment Department (Defra) spokesperson said: “We are committed to a greener future.

"We are leading the world by setting ambitious goals for nature and biodiversity in our landmark Environment Bill as well as introducing new ways to reward farmers for protecting the environment and investing £640 million in the Nature for Climate Fund.

“Furthermore we remain the first major economy to legislate for net zero, and as we build back greener from the coronavirus pandemic we are committed to shaping a cleaner and more resilient society.”

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Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent.


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