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Environmental targets: unfulfilled?

  • by JW

“A chance to confirm robust plans that will deliver.”


The government has just proposed some new environmental targets:

Environment Act 2021: environmental targets

There has been extensive coverage today of our announcement on new long-term environmental targets & green paper proposals that will protect and enhance our natural world . The coverage contains some criticisms and you can read our response in the blog below.

Water: There have been some suggestions reported that we are ‘dropping’ national targets for all rivers. That is not correct… 

Air quality: There has been some criticism reported that does not align with WHO targets. Our evidence strongly sets out that the new World Health Organization guideline level is not possible to achieve…

Nature recovery: There have also been some reporting that our 2030 species abundance target is not ambitious enough to halt the decline in nature. We are the first country in the world to set such a target for species abundance and are leading the way internationally…

The proposed targets and green paper proposals will ensure the right framework is in place to meet the UK’s international commitments to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030. They are both subject to an eight week consultation process.

Environment Act 2021: environmental targets – Defra in the media

Here is that media response:

Legal targets on air pollution and wildlife proposed by government

Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, Rebecca Newsom, said: “This is Boris Johnson’s chance to confirm robust plans that will deliver on the government’s promise to fully or highly protect at least 30% of England’s land and seas by 2030, and to take truly radical action to stem the torrent of plastic entering our natural world. These announcements must include solid targets to reduce single-use plastic by 50% by 2025 and ban industrial fishing in the UK’s marine-protected areas as a matter of urgency.”

Legal targets on air pollution and wildlife proposed by government | UK News | Sky News

Clean air: Campaigners criticise pace of new particles targets

Katie Nield, from the environmental law charity ClientEarth, called on ministers to “seriously reconsider” their plans. She added: “Another generation of children will be exposed to toxic pollution far above what the world’s top scientists think is acceptable.”

Meanwhile, a similar criticism has been levelled at the target for nature recovery, which forms part of a consultation on details in the government’s Environment Act. The government’s consultation promises a 10% increase in species diversity over 2030 levels by 2042.

Richard Benwell of Wildlife Link said: “We have seen a 150-year decline, so it’s great that the government wants to arrest that. But under today’s plan we could end up no better off than we are today.” He also complained about the absence of targets to ensure the quality of legally protected areas, and of a long-term target for the condition of rivers and streams, although there are now targets for pollution from farmers and water companies.

Clean air: Campaigners criticise pace of new particles targets – BBC News

Proposed air pollution limit in England is twice as high as WHO recommends

Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose nine-year-old daughter, Ella, died of air pollution in 2013, told the Guardian: “It is appalling. It is so disappointing. The government is not taking this seriously, as a public health crisis. They are completely disregarding what the coroner said [in the case of Ella’s death], that no child should suffer and die like my daughter.”

Requirements to clean up all of England’s rivers have also been dropped, in a range of new proposals set out on Wednesday under the Environment Act, which was passed last year and requires ministers to set out legally binding targets on air quality, water, waste and biodiversity.

After public outcry over the high volumes of sewage that water companies are pouring into UK rivers, first revealed by a Guardian investigation, the government had been expected to put in place more stringent requirements on water quality. However, plans for a target for all English rivers to be in good health were dropped and the new proposals only cover limited forms of pollution, from agriculture and in sewage treatment.

Proposed air pollution limit in England is twice as high as WHO recommends | Environment | The Guardian