Biodiversity: UK environmental watchdog scolds government for slow action on nature

The Environmental Safety Workplace says gradual progress on the UK’s 25-year environmental plan may result in ecological tipping factors, equivalent to collapsing fish shares.


12 Might 2022

Air pollution within the Jubilee river in Taplow, England

Maureen McLean/Shutterstock

Britain’s post-Brexit “inexperienced watchdog” criticized the federal government’s gradual progress on its flagship plan to guard and restore nature and warned {that a} “superb” tempo of motion may result in environmental tipping factors, together with collapses in fish shares.

In its first public response because it was created into regulation in November 2021, the Workplace of Environmental Safety (OEP) warned of alarming declines within the numbers of birds and different wildlife and lamented falling funds to observe the well being of rivers and soil.

“We’re shifting relentlessly in the direction of actual tipping factors for the surroundings,” says Glenys Stacey, president of OEP, a brand new unbiased physique designed to take care of environmental requirements after the UK’s departure from the European Union.

General progress on the federal government’s 25-year environmental plan, launched 4 years in the past, has been very gradual, the group stated in a report launched as we speak. The Watchdog stated that since 2018, insurance policies have did not reverse declining biodiversity or considerably enhance polluted waterways and air.

The group stated solely 16 p.c of England’s rivers are ecologically wholesome, with solely 33 of England’s 44 air high quality zones complying with annual limits on nitrogen dioxide, a dangerous pollutant largely produced by diesel automobiles. Stacey stated the progress in the direction of stopping the degradation of the marine surroundings has been weak and “superb at greatest”.

OEP’s Simon Brockington says the tempo of progress means the UK is approaching ecological tipping factors the place “a really gradual and everlasting and gradual decline instantly turns into catastrophe”. Examples embrace setting fishing quotas too excessive, harmful “backside trawls” on the seafloor, and nutrient runoff from farmland that might contaminate waterways, he says.

The group provides that except for the Division for Setting, Meals and Rural Affairs (Defra), intergovernmental help for the 25-year plan lacks the seriousness or urgency of the UK’s internet zero goal. “Our message to the federal government is evident: to guard, restore, [and] enhance the surroundings,” says Stacey.

Senior environmental figures within the authorities stated New Scientist They hope the OEP’s intervention will add some impetus to reaching the targets of the 25-year plan, which is meant to meet its 2011 dedication to “depart our surroundings in a greater place than we discovered it”. The brand new report reveals the UK isn’t any nearer to that purpose than it was in a devastating evaluation by the nation’s spending watchdog two years in the past.

Craig Bennett of the Wildlife Trusts charity says of the report: “We completely agree with that. There’s a downside inside the authorities: the timeline and urgency that’s simply wanted does not make sense.” He says nature-related coverage bulletins are too typically fragmentary, and that strikes by some departments are undermining Defra’s constructive strides.

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