‘Time is running out’: UK nature regulators issue warning on nature’s decline

Time is running out to recover nature, the UK’s statutory nature bodies have warned in a new report, as commentators say that strengthening the Environment Bill and integrating ambitions for nature into planning reforms will be “fundamental” to reversing biodiversity loss.

UK nature regulators have issued a warning on nature’s decline. Photograph: Bruno Raffa/Getty Images

The report, which makes nine urgent recommendations to reverse the decline of nature by 2030, and calls for both the public and private sector to play their part in nature’s recovery, has been welcomed by politicians and green groups. 

However, the chair of the Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee, Baroness Parminter, told ENDS that “unless we have all government departments putting nature front and centre of their policy making then all this is just not going to happen”.

Parminter added that although the report is welcome “it doesn’t make it absolutely clear that fundamental to achieving this is a toughened up Environment Bill”.  

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She said that if the government does not support the amendments to the bill passed in the House of Lords, such as those strengthening the enforcement powers of the Office for Environmental Protection, then the goal to recover nature by 2030 will not happen.

The report from Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, recommends nine changes that must be delivered at speed in order to reverse biodiversity loss by the end of this decade - though in Parminter’s view “there needs to be a little more focus on the specifics”. 

The recommendations, which include adopting targets to become nature positive, and investing in habitat restoration, are not particularly detailed, but the report does put a notable stress on the importance of putting nature’s recovery on the same footing as managing climate change, “increasing financial flows to nature”, and on integrating ambitions for nature into development plans.

On the latter, Parminter noted that it’s going to be “fundamental” for Michael Gove, the new secretary of state for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to make sure that “outcomes we want for nature are included in development planning”.

She said that unless nature recovery strategies are a material consideration in planning applications, and unless targets for nature are on a par with housing targets, then the government’s stated ambitions for nature “will not be achievable”. 

In the report, the nature bodies also call on more direct investment from the private sector, and for more opportunities for investment to be created, “such as by developing packages of projects that collectively are of sufficient scale to attract significant investment”. 

On the subject of funding, Jason Reeves, head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management added that reversing biodiversity loss “will require substantial funding for the statutory agencies and local authorities in particular”. 

“As a society we have to value the input and guidance of experts; the biodiversity professionals who can guide us in restoring nature that underpins our life support systems and economies.” 

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The report’s launch marks a year since the Leader’s Pledge for Nature, which commits the 88 signatories to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030.