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UK government ‘failing to keep promises’ on environmental protection

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More than a thousand laws that protect the environment and ensure minimum standards for water quality and pollution are under threat from the government’s decision to press on with the Retained EU Law Bill, campaigners have warned.

The Wildlife Trusts said the government has “a pattern of missing legislative deadlines” that undermines the UK’s ability to restore nature.

The body, which is formed from 46 UK wildlife conservation charities, identified a raft of missing policies that have still not been implemented by the government despite being promised.

They include a failure to institute targets in the Environment Act, and the still-missing Environmental Principles which help with interpretation of environmental laws and prevent damage to nature.

The 30x30 target – designed to protect 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030 – is also only at 3.22 per cent this year with no clear plan of how to reach 30 per cent in the next seven years, the Wildlife Trusts said.

The group highlighted a lack of new protections for sites and species due to the still-not-published Highly Protected Marine Areas pilot and a lack of new farm schemes in England designed to reward farmers for benefits to society.

The National Action Plan on Sustainable Use of Pesticides has been absent from the legislative agenda since Spring 2022 and the River Basin Management Plans – which is designed to protect England’s rivers – is also overdue.

Other measures still not implemented include a ban on horticultural peat use, the Deposit Return Scheme to cut plastic pollution, reintroduction of beavers in certain areas, and a bycatch mitigation initiative to protect rare sea life.

These stalled policies will prevent the UK from attaining the key principle of COP15 talks – to protect 30 per cent of land and sea for nature by 2030, the Wildlife Trusts said.

“The UK government has a record of making big environmental announcements to get headlines, but then failing to keep promises,” said Craig Bennett, the body’s CEO.

“When it does follow through, the policies are so dramatically watered-down that they bear little resemblance to the ambition of the original promise.

“The UK government is setting a dismal example to the rest of the world. It’s putting nature into reverse gear at a time when it should be setting a world-leading example at COP15. It must take urgent action at home to restore nature otherwise we cannot expect other countries to heed calls for ambitious global policies which help us address the climate crisis.

“If the UK wants to be a world leader on climate and nature it must scrap the appalling Retained EU Law (revocation and reform) Bill which threatens to remove or weaken the laws that protect wild places and species. 

“It must also reward farmers for restoring the environment, not polluting it, and it must get stuck into its long-overdue to-do list as soon as possible. If not, we’re ill-equipped to deal with the crisis on our own doorsteps let alone advise the rest of the world.”

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