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“Government has no credible plan” – reaction to report on progress towards goal of protecting 30% of England for nature

26 July 2023

Wildlife and Countryside Link (an organisation representing more than 70 nature organisations across the country) has today called on Government to take action to protect more of England for nature. This follows the publication of a report by the House of Lords saying that urgent action is needed on land and at sea if 30% protection targets are to be anything more than a slogan for international political agreements.

Link is updating its own progress update on the 30x30 targets – due for release in the autumn.

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link said:

“Today’s report confirms that the goal of protecting 30% of England for nature remains a distant dot on the horizon. An extraordinary challenge like this requires extraordinary leadership, but the Government has no credible plan for delivering its promise. Just last week, DEFRA shrugged off cross-party proposals in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill that would have helped National Parks and AONBs to contribute to 30x30.

“We’re calling on Ministers to reform the management of England’s great landscapes, so they contribute more to nature restoration, and to extend and improve our network of protected wildlife sites. With just 6 years until the 2030 deadline, achieving the target remains possible – just about – but the Government can ill afford to pass up opportunities like the Levelling Up Bill if it has any intention of fulfilling its pledges.”

Further extracts from report:

  • The Government is not on track to meet its 30x30 target.
  • The report calls for areas with 30x30 potential to be assessed against robust criteria in line with international guidance to ensure sites contributing to the 30% target are high quality and protected for nature.
  • Protected landscapes like national parks and AONBs cannot automatically count towards the target - a statutory purpose for nature recovery for National Parks and AONBs would put them in a good position to contribute to nature’s recovery (although this would still not be necessarily sufficient for them to comply with 30x30 criteria).
  • It is recommended that Habitat Regulations which offer the highest strength and most effective protection to wildlife sites in England are retained and are not subject to amendment without an appropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny or where the protections afforded by the regulations are weakened.

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