Government launches 'ambitious' UK nature recovery plan


With the deadline for the target of halting the decline of nature by 2030 looming, the UK Government's much-anticipated Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP) was published on 31 January and sets out how it is going to achieve their manifesto commitment to "deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth".

The five-year EIP has already started: Natural England has been expanding and improving its network of National Nature Reserves, with an increase of 13,000 ha over the last three years.

But it is widely agreed that, even under optimal conditions, wildlife populations will continue to decline for several years before recoveries will be seen. The Wildlife Trusts say new policy measures must therefore be watertight in ensuring that nature can return.

Because Red-listed species like Lesser Spotted Woodpecker will continue declining for several years, even in optimum conditions, The Wildlife Trusts say new policy measures must absolutely ensure nature's recovery (Morten Scheller Jensen).

Five years since the Government implemented the 25 Year Environment Plan, which promised to "leave the environment in a better state for the next generation", The Wildlife Trusts say that plan has failed to stop the catastrophic loss of nature. The Office for Environmental Protection has warned that none of the plan's 23 environmental targets set out in the plan look likely to be met.

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: "The Government promised voters 'the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth' in their 2019 manifesto – but unprecedented nature declines are worsening and there's a big mountain to climb to address the climate emergency. So a plan that matches the Government's earlier ambition is desperately needed."

He added: "A dramatic increase in funding is needed if the UK is to reach its target to protect 30% of our land and sea for nature by 2030. Progress towards this target is painfully slow because Government funding for biodiversity is more than 10% lower than it was a decade ago – yet we know that £1.2 billion extra each year is needed to restore nature. The Government must find new cash to do this – not just recycle existing funding pots under new names."

Writing about the EIP, Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said: "We now all know that we are facing into a series of environmental challenges that are very serious, pressing and which are connected to one another."

Juniper added that this means "significant new partnerships and integration of effort across the 'Four Fs' of farming, forestry, flooding and freshwater" will be required to make the plan a success.

One key goal of the EIP is to ensure that every person in the UK can access green space within a 15-minute walk.

The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that progress will be hindered by the Retained EU Law Bill, which threatens to scrap thousands of laws protecting wildlife at the end of 2023, as well as the lack of a plan on how to meet the Government's commitment to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030, and that only just over a third of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are in favourable condition despite their status. The policy commitment to see at least half of SSSIs in favourable condition by 2020 has already been missed.