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Debate on global biodiversity commitments - environment groups warn the UK needs more than a wish list for nature

  • The UK is set to publish its plan, on how it will meet global nature targets agreed at COP15, on 22nd May
  • Nature groups are calling for the plan to set out how the UK will contribute to the global effort to halt and reverse the decline of nature by 2030, to close the big gap between ambition and action
  • Action is needed in areas including funding for sustainable farming, and protection of land and sea for nature

As MPs including Sarah Champion prepare to debate how well the UK is delivering action for species conservation on 14th May ahead of the World Species Congress, nature groups are warning that the gap between the ambition of the COP15 targets and real action for nature in the UK remains huge. Previous analysis shows that none of the targets are currently on track for delivery in England. [1] See editor's notes for summaries from each UK nation.

The UK Government is set to publish its plan on international goals including halting and reversing the decline of nature by 2030 (an international target agreed at COP15 in December 2022) on 22nd May. [2] UK nature groups are warning the government to produce firm proposals for how it plans to save nature, before it’s too late.

The four countries of the UK are amongst the most nature-depleted in the world, and so share a responsibility to take a leading role in driving nature’s recovery. [3] Leading environmental groups from across the four nations are warning that the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) must detail new commitments, action, strategies, and finance to make the laudable target to halt and reverse the decline of nature by 2030 a reality. This is also key in setting a strong example for other countries.

Richard Benwell, Chief Executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said:

“COP15 saw the agreement of strong targets for nature around the world. The UK should be proud of its role in this but nearly eighteen months later and we’re still waiting on firm plans on how nature will actually be saved. The UK public is strongly behind action for nature which would restore dwindling wildlife, give us happier healthier communities and have huge benefits including farming. The Government must wake up to this now and give nature recovery the action and funding it needs.”

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive of the RSPB, said:

“The UK played a leading role in landing the global nature targets at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 – and yet it remains one of the most nature-depleted places in the world. It is clear that current plans simply do not go far enough to tackle the scale and urgency of the nature and climate crisis. We now have an opportunity for UK countries to demonstrate world-leading action to protect and restore nature and plug the gap between those commitments and existing plans.

“We need governments across the UK to share vital details of timely, ambitious action plans and funding to save our natural world. Nature cannot afford to wait any longer.”

Simon Dowell, Conservation Science & Policy Director at Chester Zoo, said:

“Around the world wildlife continues to decline, so we look forward to working with parliamentarians on strong global action for nature ahead of the World Species Congress. This is a key opportunity for the UK to be a world leader on nature, with strong policies here that could spur action in other countries too. And closer to home, with iconic species from hedgehogs to curlews disappearing at an alarming rate we need Government action now to ensure that future generations can enjoy a life with more nature.”

Nature groups are calling for further action in the below areas:

  • Protection of 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030: It’s been over three years since the UK Government promised to protect 30% of land and sea for nature, yet progress remains slow and unclear. Nature groups are calling for more robust criteria on what constitutes a protected area. The most recent progress update on this found just 3% of land and 8% of sea was effectively protected for nature. An FOI also found that the UK Government has no evidence to back up its claims to be on track to meet this target.
  • Funding for sustainable farming: Agriculture is the most significant driver of biodiversity loss in the UK. Governments across the UK must put forward plans, advice and funding to reform food and farming policy to support nature positive farming and transform the way we manage land.
  • Strong action for species abundance: In the UK, species abundance has been in shocking decline and yet not all UK governments have set legally binding targets to recover species abundance. Countries should put forward these targets, and match them with costed delivery plans.
  • Sustainably manage and restore marine ecosystems. More comprehensive action plans for the protection and conservation of marine ecosystems are needed, including plans for fisheries to be managed so that they support thriving seabird populations, and benefit nature and the climate.

Previous analysis by Wildlife and Countryside Link of policy progress in England towards the global targets found that, of the 18 targets assessed, none were on track. Other analyses have found a similar story – the Office for Environmental Protection’s annual progress report found that the Government is largely off track to meet its environmental ambitions and legal obligations in England.

Nature groups are urging all politicians to match the public’s desire for action to save nature. 100,000 people have signed an open letter calling on the leaders of all political parties to get behind big commitments for nature ahead of the General Election. Over 100 nature groups are also aiming to deliver the biggest ever gathering to support nature and climate on 22 June – more information is available at


Notes to Editors:

  1. At COP15, twenty-three targets were agreed with a deadline of 2030. Previous analysis shows that out of eighteen targets assessed, none are currently on track. Seven of the targets are ranked “yellow” denoting some progress with action still required, with the remaining eleven all ranked “red” or “dark red”, meaning that progress has either stalled or is going backwards.
  2. In 2022, at the COP15 gathering in Montreal, the UK signed an international deal to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030.
  3. Given that environmental policy is a devolved responsibility, each of the four countries of the UK are responsible for developing their own policy approaches towards meeting international biodiversity commitments, together with their domestic priorities.
  4. Link’s briefing ahead of the Westminster Hall debate on the World Species Congress on 14th May, and a Westimster Hall debate on biodiversity loss on 15th May, can be found here
  5. Notes on each UK nation’s strategy:
    1. The Scottish Government consulted on a wide-ranging Biodiversity Framework at the end of 2023. The final Scottish Biodiversity Strategy to 2045 and its first 5-year Delivery Plans are due for publication this summer, and are expected to include national Programmes for Species Recovery and Ecosystem Restoration. The Scottish Seabird Conservation Strategy, focusing on perhaps Scotland’s most threatened and most globally important species group, will hopefully be produced before the end of 2024.
    2. Northern Ireland is still yet to publish its Environmental Improvement Plan, and awaits publication of its draft Nature Recovery Strategy, with the former Biodiversity Strategy having expired in 2020.
    3. Wales has a Nature Recovery Action Plan which was refreshed in 2020; it hasn’t yet been updated to address the post 2020 Global Framework. The Welsh Government is also in the process of developing a statutory nature recovery framework and has just consulted on a White Paper with proposals for legally binding nature recovery targets and a statutory Nature Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.
    4. England has the Environmental Improvement Plan from 2023, which is a follow on from the 25 Year Environment Plan

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