DEFRA's nature restoration plans include trebling tree planting and restoring peatland. Photograph: Dougal Waters/Getty Images DEFRA's nature restoration plans include trebling tree planting and restoring peatland. Photograph: Dougal Waters/Getty Images

DEFRA's plans to restore nature: 10 things you need to know

As well as a binding target on species, DEFRA is announcing a raft of measures today aimed at restoring nature. Here’s what you need to know.

The government has announced it will set a legally binding species target for 2030

DEFRA says it will set the target through an amendment to the Environment Bill. The actual target will be established after further consultation.

Green groups have welcomed the news 

Richard Benwell, chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said the government had accepted the principle of the need for a legally-binding target to halt the decline of wildlife, describing this as a “tremendously important milestone toward a world-leading environmental law”.

DEFRA had come under increasing pressure to set a target

Green groups had argued that with the G7 Climate and Environment Ministers’ meeting taking place this week, as well as  the upcoming 15th UN Biodiversity Conference of the Parties and COP 26, which will be hosted in Glasgow later this year, the UK needed to show leadership by setting its own national targets on nature.

The UK’s progress towards meeting the UN-agreed biodiversity goals have been poor

The government’s latest biodiversity indicators show that EU-protected habitats and priority species are declining, while invasive species are steadily spreading across the country. 

However, it is thought that the UK’s nature decline could be ‘much worse than reported’

Last year the RSPB attacked the UK government’s own nature assessments as dishonest. While the government believes it has reached around seven of the UN’s 20 goals (agreed at the Conference of the Parties in 2010) the RSPB refutes this, arguing that the figure is much closer to three. 

In fact, the UK has been found to be 'worst at nature protection among G7'

This week, research carried out by the Natural History Museum in collaboration with the RSPB, using the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII)  - a measurement used in the recent UK government-commissioned Dasgupta Review of economics and biodiversity - found that the UK is the worst performer among the G7 nations in terms of biodiversity levels.

DEFRA says its announcements today show it is acting on the Dasgupta Review 

The independent, global review published in February, led by professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, found that “the extent to which we have collectively degraded the biosphere...has given rise to existential risks for humanity”.

DEFRA says the government will respond formally to the review in “due course”.

Green groups have welcomed a ban on the sales of peat products

Benwell described the ban, which is subject to consultation as “excellent” but warned that “previous efforts have failed”, so he hoped the government would “expedite consultation to ensure that new regulations are agreed this year”.

But a plan to restore degraded peatland in England does not go far enough, campaigners say

Benwell noted that the government’s commitment it made today to restore 35,000 hectares of peatland only represented around 5% of England’s peatland.

The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said that plans were “important commitments, but don't go further than previous government announcements”.

Neither does the government's plan to treble tree planting during this Parliament

The commitment, also announced today, would involve planting 6,000 hectares of new woodland in England by 2025. However, the ECIU said that “with the Climate Change Committee recommending boosting tree cover for the UK as a whole from 13% to 18% by 2050, long-term policy certainty is needed”.

Benwell said the government should guarantee that the large majority of new trees will be native, broadleaf species “that enhance nature”. 

“Any windfall for commercial forestry, which is already well-rewarded in the market, could undermine the environmental benefits of these proposals,” he added.

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