Nature groups, including Butterfly Conservation, are warning that the Government’s new target in the Environment Bill has fallen far short of the action needed for nature, and has weakened the UK’s position to negotiate a strong global deal for nature and climate action at international talks at G7 and beyond.
Amendments introduced in the Environment Bill this week would set a species abundance target for 2030, but they avoid setting a critical target to halt the decline of wildlife. This weakly worded target includes no set date for the Government to halt the decline of wildlife, merely requiring the decline to slow down by 2030. Other recent changes to the Bill could also lead to a weakening of pivotal protections for wildlife - the Habitat Regulations.
The changes to the draft law lack the ambition to halt the decline of nature by 2030 backed by the Prime Minister in the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature and in the G7 environment communique. It also falls short of commitments made by the Environment Secretary, Rt Hon George Eustice MP, in a speech at Delamere Forest less than a month ago, when he recognised that the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world and committed to introduce a “legally binding target for species abundance for 2030, aiming to halt the decline of nature”.
The Environment Secretary described this target and changes to the Habitat Regulations as their “compass [for the] future” but the Government seems to have lost its direction on these reforms. Campaigners say this is not the historic “huge step forward” promised by the Environment Secretary. Changes to Habitats Regulations could in fact be a major step backwards for nature, opening the door to easier planning rules which could harm protected nature sites and protected species.