News Government not protecting land and sea for nature

Government not protecting land and sea for nature


No real progress has been made on protecting 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030 and deregulatory plans risk sliding backwards, warn experts.

The Government is not on course to protect 30% of the land and sea for nature by 2030.

Just 3.22% of England’s land and 8% of the sea was effectively protected by 2022. This is an increase of just 0.22% of the land and 4% of the sea compared with 2021.

Deregulatory proposals to liberalise planning laws would take England even further away from meeting nature targets.

The report comes just weeks ahead of global nature talks where the UK is expected to sign an international treaty to implement 30x30.

In 2020, the Government committed to protect at least 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030 (its 30x30 target). Two years on, nature campaigners are warning that little progress has been made.

In its first annual 30x30 progress report, launched on 19th October 2022, Wildlife and Countryside Link is calling on the Prime Minister to send a clear international message that the UK will be a global leader in implementing 30x30. The 30x30 target is expected to be a key commitment in global nature talks at COP15 in Montreal in December.

The report argues that this means “designation, not deregulation” – protecting more land and sea for nature, rather than weakening planning rules. The report singles out the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill for criticism. The bill will reform or repeal hundreds of EU-derived environmental laws by the end of 2023. In particular, plans for “fundamental reform” of the Habitats Regulations could weaken the UK’s most legally-robust laws that defend natural habitats.

Campaigners are also calling on the Prime Minister to confirm her intention to attend COP15 nature talks in person to push for global action to protect and restore nature.

Key figures detailed in the report:

Only 3.22% of England’s land is effectively protected for nature.

The Government has designated 2831 hectares in three new Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), contributing 0.22% to the amount of protected land.

A maximum of 8% of England’s seas could be said to be effectively protected for nature.

The progression of management measures in some Marine Protected Areas has increased the amount of ocean by 4% at most.

Separate analysis has found that at least 90% of UK marine areas with protections in place were damaged by bottom trawling or dredging during 2021. On land, widespread burning on England’s protected peatlands in 2022 has been damaging our biggest carbon store, with 51 burns on land protected by multiple conservation designations and public reports of burning up 67% from 2021.

This lack of progress, coupled with a Government deregulatory agenda means that it is now more important the ever to defend nature.  The proposals have caused outrage among green charities, politicians of all political persuasion, farmers, campaigners, and members of the public – many of whom feel anxious that the Government is not tackling the nature and climate crises with the urgency required. The BMC, alongside 77 other environmental organisations, have already written to the Prime Minister warning of the impact of ripping up environmental protections and destroying nature which destroys the fundamentals of health, happiness and prosperity.

The BMC will continue to work in partnership with Link and other conservation bodies to push Government to take credible action to achieve 30x30 in England, creating thriving nature across the land and sea, contributing to tackling climate change and supporting the health and wellbeing benefits of a healthy natural environment.