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UK set to miss almost all 2020 nature protection targets


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In 2010, the UK government set a series of targets saying, 'our environment plan sets out our goals for improving the environment within a generation and leaving it in a better state than we found it.' Some of us naively thought that it would happen.


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A report last week highlighted that the UK will miss almost all the 2020 targets it signed up to a decade ago in order to protect our native wildlife and countryside.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states that the UK is failing to protect threatened species; end the degradation of land; reduce agricultural pollution; and increase funding for green schemes.  It also says the UK is not ending unsustainable fishing; stopping the arrival of invasive alien species; nor raising public awareness of the importance of biodiversity.

malham cove

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More than one in ten of the UK’s wildlife species are currently threatened with extinction - with the numbers of the nation’s most endangered creatures having plummeted by two-thirds since 1970. In decline are the once common great crested newt, hedgehogs and water voles. The government promised in the past to preserve these species for future generations and to create habitats in which they could thrive. In 2016, the UK was declared  "among the most nature-depleted countries in the world" and little appears to have been done to reverse this.

Bold claims were made in 2010 to improve the UK’s air and water quality and protect many of our threatened plants, trees and wildlife species. With targets set to cut fertiliser and other pollution to levels that do not harm biodiversity  - there has been little reduction in sensitive habitats since 2010, with '65% of inland and coastal waters remaining below target levels'.

'Only about half of fish stocks are sustainably caught', meaning the target to reverse the loss of marine diversity and 'end overfishing will be missed'.

The management of new invasive species entering the UK and harming wildlife has stalled - our native fish and marine life are under increasing threat of alien invasion. The grey squirrel, a North American import, continues to threaten our native red squirrels and is a clear example of what can happen when species invasion is unchecked.

red squirrel

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It would be unfair to say that every target has been missed; implementing a national biodiversity action plan, improving scientific knowledge and integrating biodiversity values into planning processes have all been achieved. But these are all planning and procedural processes rather than actions that will make an immediate impact on our natural world.

The government's attention has clearly been elsewhere as funding has been cut on many green projects. We were all supposed to be rushing out and buying ‘green cars’ to help cut emissions, the only thing cut was the tax incentive to buy a low-emissions car. In total nine major green election promises have had their funding cut.

Fossil fuels

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Unless we see the government make drastic changes - in education, investment in nature and biodiversity for instance - they are unlikely to achieve the 2020 targets and protect the future of the UK’s natural environment.

Read the full list of the government's proposed targets

Lead Image: TimHill on Pixabay

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