Ben HaywardSeptember 27th

The Prime Minister is to announce that an extra 400,000 hectares of English countryside will be protected to support the recovery of nature in the UK.

Boris Johnson will make the commitment at a virtual United Nations event, joining a global ‘Leaders Pledge for Nature’ to reverse the loss of the natural world by 2030. 

Currently, National parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and other protected areas make up 26% of land in England, but the Prime Minister is promising that the government will increase that to 30% over the next 10 years.

Although environmental policy is devolved to regional governments in the UK, the government has said it will work with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as landowners, to achieve the goals the pledge sets out.  

The Pledge - which also contains commitments to prioritise a green recovery following the coronavirus pandemic - plans to deliver ambitious biodiversity targets as well as increasing financing for nature.

Mr Johnson said: “We cannot afford dither and delay because biodiversity loss is happening today and it is happening at a frightening rate.

“Left unchecked, the consequences will be catastrophic for us all. Extinction is forever - so our action must be immediate.”

Although the announcement has been generally well-received by environmentalists, the community says the Prime Minister must lead by example, pointing out that roughly half of existing Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the UK are in poor condition, many through lack of funding

Campaigners also say the pledge must work alongside wider efforts to avoid trade deals that damage wildlife, and that the UK must clamp down on imports of food that have caused environmental destruction overseas - such as beef farming in the Amazon.

The RSPB's director of global conservation, Martin Harper, said: “[Although] the 30% commitment could be a huge step towards addressing the crisis facing our wildlife, targets on paper won't be enough. Those set a decade ago failed because they weren't backed up by action.”

Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said the pledge was a ‘good start’ but more urgent action is needed.

Mr Bennett said: “National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty are severely depleted of wildlife because of overgrazing, poor management or intensive agricultural practices.” 

He added that around half of sites of special scientific interest are ‘in a poor state and suffering wildlife declines’.

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