There are a million urgent environmental causes to fight.
From mind-bogglingly massive environmental efforts like the RSPB’s work to protect the UK Overseas Territories to last gasp local causes like Buglife’s defence of the Distinguished Jumping Spider, they are all essential. It’s no wonder that the UK’s nature charities and campaigners often focus on different priorities.
So, when they all come together, there can be no doubt that something special is happening.
Today, almost 100 environmental leaders have written to the Prime Minister with one proposal: a legally-binding target to halt the decline of nature in England by 2030. A petition has been launched - please sign it here - calling for the target to be set in the Environment Bill.
It’s extraordinary, really, that we have to ask for it. There are statutory targets for air quality, water quality, waste reduction and climate change. They are all vital and they all need to be strengthened. There are even statutory targets for reducing the burden of regulation. But there are no statutory targets for species and habitats.
The abundance and diversity of species, the extent and condition of habitats—these are the essential hallmarks of ecosystem health that tell us how Planet Earth is coping with our presence. Each year, for decades, we have charted the story of their always-relentless and often precipitous decline, yet we have not yet set ourselves a target in law to make sure that our natural world is in good health.
We simply must do it.
It will be impossible to beat climate change without nature-based solutions.
It will be impossible to improve people’s health and wellbeing without equitable access to nature.
It will be impossible to sustain our economy without investing in the natural assets that support it.
It will be impossible to avoid future pandemics and insecurity without living in harmony with nature.
Most simply, it will be impossible to ensure that future generations can experience the daily pleasure, the essential solace, and the sheer elation that nature can bring unless we set ourselves a serious and enforceable target to protect it.
So, of course we should set a “state of nature” target to stop the decline in nature by 2030, and back it up with a powerful Office for Environmental Protection to hold government to account along the way. Of course, we should ensure that Government invests in a green recovery to ensure that this ambitious target can be achieved. At the moment, though, this critical headline objective is missing from the Environment Bill.
Such a target can drive action and investment from Government, rally private sector capital, and inspire commitments across the world in this unique year of the UK’s presidency of the G7 and the COP-26 climate talks. What a difference we could make if the Government could attend global nature talks with the world’s first legally-binding target to halt nature’s decline!
There are a million urgent environmental causes to fight. They are all essential. But this is one that – if we are successful – could help us to win them all, guaranteeing environmental action for a decade to come.
Please sign and share the petition for a “state of nature” target today.
Dr Richard Benwell is CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link
The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.
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