Government falling 'far short' on environmental targets
Government efforts to improve England's environment and to protect the natural world are falling "far short" of what is needed, a watchdog has warned.
A report by the independent Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) also says the country is facing a "deeply concerning decline in biodiversity". It found many of the government's 23 environmental targets were at significant risk of not being achieved. The government said it would consider the report carefully.
The report said England is facing a "deeply concerning decline in biodiversity". Many previously common bird species, like Greenfinch, are now Red-listed (Nick Truby).
The study assessed 32 environmental areas, from species numbers to air and water quality improvements, and found nine trends were improving, 11 were static, and eight were deteriorating. In four areas, there was not enough data to make a reliable assessment. "The situation is poor across the board, with adverse trends across marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments," it said.
Of the 23 environmental targets it looked at, it assessed 14 as "off track" while the remaining nine could not be assessed because the evidence was not available. A spokesman for Defra said it would publish a new environmental improvement plan later this month that would help it to meet its targets to protect the natural world, tackle climate change and halt the decline in species populations by 2030.
Richard Benwell, CEO of campaign group Wildlife and Countryside Link, said that the report showed that "rapid, concerted action and investment" was needed if environmental targets were to be met. "To halt the decline of nature, the days of fluffy wish lists, and back-of-the-settee funding for nature policy must end," he added.
The OEP, set up under the 2021 Environment Act to hold the government and other public bodies to account, said there had been "a frequent failure" by the government to meet its own legally-binding targets. It said the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis had worsened a lack of coherence in environmental strategy within Defra and across government.