The UK will miss almost all the 2020 nature targets it signed up to a decade ago, according to a report by the government’s official advisers.
For example, the goal to prevent new invasive species entering the UK and harming wildlife is being missed. Despite strong action, the report says, the number of invasive species has increased in fresh and marine waters.
The nation is also failing to protect threatened species; not ending unsustainable fishing; and not reducing agricultural pollution, it said.
The targets were set in 2010 by the global Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the report from the joint nature conservation committee (JNCC) found insufficient progress was being made on 14 of the 19 targets, reports the Guardian.
The news came on the day Britain formally launched its bid to host the UN climate change conference in 2020, seeking to prove its green credentials are not tarnished and to show the disarray that has been caused by Brexit does not mean the UK has forfeited its right to be a major international player.
Critics of the government said the report showed wildlife and natural habitats were in deep crisis. The UK is ‘among the most nature-depleted countries in the world’, according to a separate 2016 report, with continuing declines in species such as skylarks, hedgehogs, many insects including butterflies and corn marigolds.
“The JNCC report says nature in the UK is pretty bad, declining and not recovering, and that is in the context of an awful lot of rhetoric [from ministers] about being a world leader on the environment,” said Kate Jennings, the head of site conservation policy at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
“We are going to fail to meet the vast majority of our international commitments,” she said. “Some of the things presented as positive are where places are getting worse more slowly – if that’s the best achievement we’ve got, it’s a pretty sorry state of affairs.”
Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: “Nature matters. Our species and ecosystems are valued in their own right, but they also contribute to our well-being and economic prosperity. We acknowledge that in many areas there are ongoing declines in nature, but there are real points of progress on which we can build. Our 25 Year Environment Plan is a step-change in ambition.”
Martin Harper, of the RSPB, said: “After decades of fudged targets and false promises on the environment, it’s crucial that we secure binding targets in new national legislation, and a robust watchdog.”