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This is a House of Commons Committee report with recommendations to the Government. The Government has two months to respond.
Date Published: 30 June 2021
The world is witnessing a colossal decline in global biodiversity. One million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Most terrestrial biomes are damaged. Since 1970 there has been a 68 percent decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish. This global picture is reflected in the UK, one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. 15 percent of UK species are threatened with extinction. Of the G7 countries, the UK has the lowest level of biodiversity remaining. At a minimum, the UK has failed to meet 14 of the 19 Aichi biodiversity targets, the global nature goals the UK committed to meet by 2020.
To reverse the trend of biodiversity loss requires urgent transformative change. This cannot be achieved simply though using natural resources more efficiently. Total material consumption in developed economies needs to be reduced, nature needs to be accounted for in economic decision making and governments and businesses need to take pre-emptive and precautionary actions to avoid, mitigate and remedy the deterioration of nature. Alternatives to GDP urgently need to be adopted as more appropriate ways to measure economic success, appraise investment projects and identify sustainable development.
In 2018, the Government published its 25 Year Environment Plan, setting out its ambition to improve the natural environment within a generation. More recently, the Government announced a ‘state of nature’ target aimed at halting the decline in nature in England by 2030. The Government plans to implement a raft of environmental policies to achieve these goals including: establishing Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS), biodiversity net gain for new developments, and a Nature Recovery Network; and supporting nature-based solutions to climate change like tree planting and protecting peatland. The UK is also leading the Global Ocean Alliance to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030.
These policies are a welcome start, but in their current form do not represent the transformative change required to bend the curve of biodiversity loss. As a result, nature will continue to decline and the next generation will inherit a more depleted, damaged natural environment. Action needs to be stepped up in scale, ambition, pace, and detail.
To help achieve the transformative change necessary, we propose a package of recommendations spanning biodiversity monitoring, funding, policy implementation, economics, and education. In particular, we want to highlight the following recommendations:
This report focuses on improving biodiversity in the UK. In a subsequent report we will examine the UK’s impact on international biodiversity and the measures Ministers ought to be advocating for at COP15 and COP26 to start nature on the path of recovery.
Damaging changes in the planet’s biodiversity are not being treated with the same urgency and ambition as changes in the planet’s climate. This is unacceptable. Measures to counter the collapse in biodiversity must be raised up the political agenda: each Government department must consider the potential impact of its actions on biodiversity, and such considerations must be factored into decision-making across the public and private sector. We have seen a shift towards this with climate change: the same is possible for biodiversity. To prevent biodiversity collapse becoming a global crisis, action must be taken now.