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Failure on global and UK nature targets a wake-up call that UK governments must answer

15 September 2020

Nature charities across the UK are urging our governments to begin a ‘new era for nature’, following the confirmation by the UN today on the failure of the international community and UK governments in a decade-long effort to halt environmental decline. Environmental charities in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are writing to the leaders of their national governments today to call for the UK to lead the charge for new targets and concerted global action to reverse our nature crisis.

The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, published today by the United Nations, has confirmed that the international community will fail its global targets to reverse losses in wildlife and the natural environment by the end of 2020.[1] This announcement follows hot on the heels of research from RSPB which highlights that the UK’s performance on restoring nature may be considerably worse than previously thought, and WWF and Zoological Society of London (ZSL)’s Living Planet Report 2020 which shows animal populations globally have plunged by 68% in the last 50 years.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being urged to commit to a new UK era for nature by announcing at the UN biodiversity summit on 30 September that the government will: protect at least 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030, and support a new global target and action plan to restore species and habitats with equivalent targets to be set in UK law under the Environment Bill.

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link said: ‘The failure to meet these targets is a wake-up call for nature that our leaders must answer before it is too late. Sometimes losses have been sudden, sometimes they have been slow, but the unassailable trend in our wildlife populations is down. Unless we turn things around, we face economic and environmental catastrophe. We are calling on the Prime Minister to help start a new era for wildlife, fighting for a strong global target and worldwide action, matched with a clear legal commitment, increased investment and ambitious programmes to restore nature at home.'

Beccy Speight, chief executive at the RSPB said: ‘Today’s UN report must be seen as a wakeup call for the governments of the UK and leaders around the world, the nature crisis is not going away and we are facing up to the realities of a lost decade for nature’s recovery. We continue to see more of our wildlife pushed to the brink of extinction, and the loss of species is a stark reminder of what is at stake – simply put, positive rhetoric and empty promises are not enough to revive our world.

‘This is a global issue and the UK is not alone in failing to meet the targets set ten years ago. We cannot be in this same position in 2030. The Prime Minister must see this as our opportunity to demonstrate true global leadership on the environment by putting ambitious targets for nature’s recovery into domestic law.’

In four separate letters, charities are calling on Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill to back calls for a global target to reverse nature losses by 2030. To ensure success in the next decade, a clear new commitment should be supported with measurable national action plans, sufficient finance, and strong accountability and transparency mechanisms.

The charities also point out that, by its own admission, the UK has failed to live up to its’ responsibilities in reversing biodiversity declines. Official estimates say the UK will fail 14 out of 20 Aichi targets but RSPB analysis shows we may fail 17 out of 20 targets.This has been a “lost decade” for nature. The State of Nature Report showed the continuing decline in wildlife, with 41% of UK species in decline and 15% of species now threatened with extinction from Great Britain.


• The Government has missed its 2020 target for 50% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest to be in favourable condition; in England just 38% were in favourable condition at the last count
• The Government has missed its 2020 target for UK seas to meet Good Environmental Status, failing on 11 out of 15 indicators of marine health
• The Government is set to miss its target for 75% of rivers and streams to be in good condition, with just 16% in good condition in England and a final deadline of 2027 looming
• UK Government figures suggest we are protecting large areas of land (28%) and sea (24%), but RSPB analysis suggests the amount of land protected and well-managed for nature could be as low as 5% of the UK. At sea, only 10% of protected areas these are being actively managed
• RSPB’s analysis also shows that adjusting for inflation public funding for the environment and nature has decreased by of over a quarter of a billion Pounds (£256m in real terms)

The charities are calling on each government across the UK to commit to legally-binding targets to reverse nature’s decline well ahead of international talks to agree future targets, which will take place in China in 2021.The charities emphasise that unless these losses are reversed, it will be impossible to meet climate change targets, as there is a heavy reliance on natural ecosystems to capture carbon.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

The letter to Prime Minister Johnson can be found here The letter is signed by CEOs of 27 nature organisations: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, The Angling Trust, A Rocha UK, Bat Conservation Trust, Born Free Foundation, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, ClientEarth, CPRE the Countryside Charity, Four Paws, Greenpeace UK, League Against Cruel Sports, The Mammal Society, The National Trust, The Open Spaces Society, People's Trust for Endangered Species, Plantlife, RSPB, RSPCA, Salmon & Trout Conservation, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, WWF UK, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), Wildlife and Countryside Link, Wildlife Gardening Forum, The Wildlife Trusts, The Woodland Trust, Zoological Society of London (ZSL)


Environment Links UK (ELUK) is comprised of Wildlife and Countryside Link in England, Scottish Environment Link, Northern Ireland Environment Link and Wales Our members represent over 8 million subscribing members and supporters across the UK and provide a strong cohesive voice on the biggest issues affecting our environment.

1. GBO-5 is the final global “stocktaking” report of countries collective action to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set in 2010 by the Convention on Biological Diversity. The report will be the last one of this decade and synthesizes comprehensive national evidence of the growing biodiversity crisis and the urgent need for action.

This report comes as parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) negotiate a new 10 year global framework for biodiversity-related policy-making. The framework, which will set new goals for the protection and sustainable use of nature, will be considered for adoption at a historic UN Biodiversity Conference -- the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-15), Kunming, China, 22-31 May 2021.

Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. With 196 Parties, the Convention has near universal participation among countries.