Progress towards the government’s 25-year plan to improve the UK’s natural environment has been ‘far inadequate’ and ‘chronic declines’ of certain species continue unchecked, post-Brexit says environmental monitoring agency warned.
In a report on Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency said none of the government’s 23 environmental targets for the UK are expected to be met.
Many of the goals, including halving the length of rivers polluted by toxic metals from abandoned mines by 2038 and achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, are legally binding. there is.
Of the 32 trends assessed, such as the establishment of invasive alien species and severe water pollution incidents, only nine were improving. About 11 trends were static and 8 were deteriorating.
“We do not believe that the current pace and scale of action will bring about the changes needed to significantly improve the environment in England,” said the OEP in its first annual review. The government’s 25-year plan From the Environmental Law of 2018 and last year.
Chair Glenys Stacey said there was “very little good news to report,” adding that “recent progress falls far short of what is needed to achieve the government’s own ambitions.”
Environmental groups say that the part of government responsible for formulating, monitoring and protecting environmental policy is: hollowed out By years of funding cuts.
The OEP will be established in 2021 to replace the European Commission as the national enforcement body for environmental regulation after Brexit.But environmentalists warned It may lack the power to hold ministers accountable.
OEP CEO Natalie Prosser said: . we absolutely exercise our enforcement powers. ”
But she said the agency’s enforcement powers are a “last resort” and intended to focus on tracking and highlighting shortcomings from oversight public authorities and encouraging better practices. said that he is
Government plan to ‘review or cancel’ thousands of works EU origin law And the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has put a ton of EU legislation on hold, causing concern among environmental groups.
Prosser said any changes to legislation, especially well-established laws, must be made with caution, citing “short timescales for change” and the risk of the process being “rushed” as key concerns. .
Creating adequate and robust post-Brexit environmental legislation also risks “undermining other urgent tasks,” such as advancing green goals, she added.
In its review, OEP noted, inter alia, the so-called “priority species”, such as common toads and unstable ants. Between 1970 and 2018, the most recent year for which data exist, the number fell by 82%, according to Watchdog.
He called on the government to issue a so-called Environmental Principles Policy Statement. The statement requires Whitehall departments to take environmental protection into account when making policy decisions.
“It’s an obvious first step… but unfortunately it’s not in place yet,” Stacey said.
By the end of January, ministers will release a review of the 25-year plan, set interim targets and develop an updated “environmental improvement plan” for the next five years.
In its upcoming EIP, Defra said it “soon sets out comprehensive actions for governments to reverse the decline of the natural world, achieve net-zero targets and deliver cleaner air and water.”