Scottish Countryside

UK will fail to protect 30 per cent of English land and seas without action, peers say

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The government is falling short of meeting its commitment of protecting a third of English land and seas by 2030, peers say.

A report from the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee said that an “urgent step change” is needed if the target is going to be delivered on time.

It found that only around 6.5 per cent of natural habitats in England are effectively protected. An additional three million hectares (23.5 per cent) will need to be given protected status in order to achieve the ‘30 by 30’ target. This equates to an area roughly one and a half times the size of Wales.

The report said that improving nature in England would bring a host of benefits, including improvements to public health and wellbeing as well as tackling climate change. Protected areas in England will also play an important role in restoring nature and meeting internationally agreed biodiversity targets.

It concluded that it is not clear how the government plans to achieve ‘30 by 30’, and that a major step change in its approach to protected areas is required to deliver the commitment it made.

The committee called on the government to create more protected areas, retaining all existing designation while ensuring existing protected areas are better managed.

It also wants a management plan to be put in place, with effective monitoring for protected areas on land based on an up-to date condition assessment that must be updated every six years.

An expansion of the current marine monitoring programme would also be needed, both inshore and offshore, to develop a robust baseline of data that should be made publicly available.

Baroness Parminter, the committee’s chair, said: “Our report makes it clear that the government faces a huge challenge to meet the ‘30 by 30’ target it signed up to last year.

“The government must designate more areas to be protected, meeting international criteria, and manage and monitor all protected areas better to achieve favourable condition.

“Time is running out to halt species decline and recover nature for the public good. We are therefore calling on the government to act urgently as it has just seven crucial years to fulfil its nature crisis pledge.”

In October, the Wildlife and Countryside Link warned that the government’s failure to meet the target threatens the UK’s soil health and pollinators, undermines domestic food security, and is wiping out vulnerable species such as hedgehogs and turtle doves.

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