MPs criticise government on biodiversity targets

After NFU environment forum representative Caroline Knox gave oral evidence to the EAC inquiry last November, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has finally published its report examining biodiversity and ecosystems in the UK.

The inquiry was launched in July 2020 looking at how best to protect and enhance biodiversity while considering nature-based solutions to climate change.

The report, titled Biodiversity in the UK: Bloom or bust, urges the government “to conserve and restore UK biodiversity and ecosystems amid grave concern that of the G7 countries, the UK has the lowest level of biodiversity remaining.”

Inadequate policy and targets

MPs on the committee found that “existing government policy and targets were inadequate to address plummeting biodiversity loss, made worse by nature policy not being joined up across government.”

The report also says that the government is not on track to improve the environment within a generation. Due to a lack of clear statutory targets, its 25-Year Environment Plan does not provide sufficient direction to change this.

Some of the EAC’s recommendations include:

• Government should introduce statutory interim targets – met by every government department – to ensure that its proposed species abundance target is met to halt the decline of nature by 2030.

• The government should implement a preferred approach to data management and monitoring to strengthen a consistent evidence base on the UK’s natural capital. The data should inform decision-making in Government far more substantially than at present.

• The government must establish a timetable to put management plans and monitoring in place for all Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), with different categories of destructive bottom trawling banned or restricted. More MPAs should be established as ‘no-take’ zones.

• A legally binding target for soil health should be established.

• In the next spending review, greater funding must be given to Natural England, which reflects its responsibilities and tasks.

• The government must provide a comprehensive, consistent, and time-bound record of funding for the 25-Year Environment Plan.

Clear, straightforward implementation needed

In response to the EAC report, NFU environment forum chair Richard Bramley said: “As well as producing high quality, sustainable, climate-friendly food, farming plays an integral part in protecting, maintaining and enhancing 70% of the countryside, providing habitats and food sources that underpins biodiversity across the country.

“To be successful, the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs) needs to have clear, straightforward implementation on farm, clarity on how the scheme contributes to the environmental objectives and actions that complement the wider farm business.”

Farmers key to success

The NFU and its members are committed to maintaining high environmental standards.

Farmers will be key to the successful delivery of a number of the future environmental targets and so any targets aimed at protecting and enhancing the environment must be joined up with policies that support farming’s ability to improve productivity and to manage volatility to ensure we have profitable, productive and progressive farm businesses, both now and in the future.

More information online

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Biodiversity in the UK: Bloom or bust

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