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Making 30x30 meaningful: Reflections on the APPG Environment panel on 30x30

Emma Clarke, Policy and Information Coordinator at Wildlife and Countryside Link, reflects on yesterday's APPG Environment panel on 30x30 and what's needed to get England's protected areas working for nature and contributing to the 30x30 target.

30% is not a random number. 30% of land protected for nature by 2030 means enough nature to connect the last remaining fragments of habitat and wildlife and bolster their resilience in the face of environmental degradation and climate change. The evidence suggests that at least 30% of land for nature is what is necessary to create safeguard biodiversity and the integrity and functioning of ecosystems.

But to actually deliver for nature, 30% must be more than just a number or lines drawn on a map. 30% of land must actually protect and support rich, thriving, biodiverse nature. Area and designation targets are compelling and motivating, but they must not distract from their true aim: recovering nature and improving biodiversity. Making 30x30 meaningful means protecting land for nature in the long-term, and ensuring good management of the land so it is in good or recovering condition. A recent Wildlife and Countryside Link paper details these two conditions that land must meet to make a genuine contribution to nature’s recovery and therefore be included the 30% target.

Improving the quality of nature in protected areas was the welcome focus at yesterday’s APPG Environment event on making 30x30 meaningful. All three speakers highlighted for MPs and Lords that England’s designated areas are not always in a good state for nature. Less than 40% of SSSIs, England’s best sites for nature, are in good condition, and many have not been monitored for years. While National Parks and AONBs contain high concentrations of sites designated for nature, in many cases SSSIs within these landscape designations are in poorer condition than the SSSIs in the countryside outside these areas.

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, reflected on what good management for nature actually means. Designations should bolster biodiversity, support healthy and functioning ecosystems and ecosystem services such as carbon storage and flood mitigation, and provide wildlife-rich places for people’s health and wellbeing. To meet the grade, the condition of nature in England’s designations must be improved.

While landscape designations such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONBs) could contribute enormously to nature’s recovery, they require resources and reform. Anita Konrad, CEO of Campaign for National Parks set out what is needed to improve the state of nature in National Parks: updated statutory purposes to recover nature and tackle climate change, a strengthened duty to further these purposes, and the funding required to deliver these environmental outcomes.

Jo Smith of the Wildlife Trusts concluded the panel with a call for urgent government action to improve England’s protected areas for nature. Government should respond to the Glover Review and implement its recommendations. Management and monitoring of protected areas must be improved to ensure they are making a genuine contribution to 30x30.

The UK’s announcement to protect 30% of land by 2030 is a welcome domestic ambition and an important contribution to global leadership on targets prior to the international conferences on biodiversity and climate later this year. But we cannot forget the nature behind the numbers. Meaningful 30x30 will require good management for nature and the improvement and recovery of nature to create better, bigger and more connected protected areas for the benefit of nature, climate and people.

To learn more, you can re-watch the APPG Environment event here.

Emma Clarke is Policy and Information Coordinator at Wildlife and Countryside Link and manages the Nature and Wellbeing Strategy Group.

Follow @WCL_News.

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.