Government 25 Year Environment Plan progress report published today

Harestail cottongrass - Peter Cairns/2020VISION

Joan Edwards, Director of Public Affairs at The Wildlife Trusts, comments on the 25 Year Environment Plan progress report

Today the Government published its 25 Year Environment Plan progress report.

Joan Edwards, Director of Public Affairs at The Wildlife Trusts, comments:

“We welcome the publication of this progress report and congratulate Defra for substantially raising its ambition over recent years.  Securing nature’s recovery will take decades, however, as the very small amount of progress shows.  Other Government departments need a total rethink.  And irrespective of Brexit challenges, there is no justification for the massively destructive road proposals currently being driven through by central government and its agencies. This is in their gift and needs to change.

Specifically, we have failed to meet Good Environmental status in our seas. The Agriculture and Fisheries Bills have stalled in Parliament with no date for their return. This means we are missing the opportunity to help the 75% of our land that is farmed do more to help nature recover – and at sea the publication of the UK Marine Strategy has demonstrated that we are only meeting 4 out of 15 targets to achieve cleaner, healthier marine ecosystems.

The Government confirmed that they are making biodiversity net gain mandatory for development that requires planning permission. This is progress but not the full solution even on land, as some species need wide open expanses.  Most unjustifiably it does not apply to large infrastructure projects such as HS2 and new roads.

The review of National Parks is interesting but again a step change is needed for these areas to recover from the damage of the past. To make a bad situation even worse, the England Peat Strategy is delayed; until this is in place, peat habitats will continue to be lost or degraded and this fabulous carbon storage habitat will continue to fail to help prevent flooding and halt climate change as much as it could.

To achieve the Government’s laudable aim of being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state, we need a strong Environment Act that commits to securing nature’s recovery and to establish a Nature Recovery Network which will enable us to plan a wilder future."