The government has set harmful and illogical targets for species recovery in England this could mean eight years of decline before any improvement, despite already being at a “rock bottom”, scientists have warned the prime minister.
Twenty-three leading scientists from institutions including the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the Natural History Museum, the Zoological Society of London and the RSPB have written to Boris Johnson expressing his alarm about the natural aims.
Although their goals for species recovery were described as “ambitious” from the Conservative Party, scientists said the unusual methodology meant that the baseline for improvement could be lower than the current situation. This is because the baseline has been set for 2030, eight years from now. The government’s target is a 10% increase by 2042 from that date, which means that even if biodiversity continues to spiral downward until 2030, the government could still hit these theoretical numbers and call it a success. This is contrary to the G7 ambition to “bend the biodiversity loss curve by 2030”.
The letter says the target “seems to be missing the mark”, adding: “No target derived from a baseline that is itself in the future is logically consistent. It removes the urgency for action between now and 2030.”
Professor Nathalie Seddon, director of the Natural Solutions Initiative at Oxford University, said: “Nearly half of the species is in decline and more than one in 10 species has been pushed to extinction. years.
“Given current rates of decline in species abundance, a baseline in the future means our goal is to reach biodiversity levels below those of today.
“While maintaining this goal, the government is essentially accepting another eight years of declining species in the UK, and that is difficult to understand because we are already at the bottom, and this continuing loss of biodiversity is undermining the health of the habitats on which we depend. .
“A lot of new development is planned and a lot of damage can be done in eight years in a small country like ours. We will see continued decline without ambitious goals and a strong policy in place now.”
The scientists called for a 2022 baseline and “a tight target that reflects the scope of the natural recovery task ahead.”
An example they suggested includes a 20% or 30% increase in species abundance from 2022 to 2042, which could put Britain on track to bring species abundance close to 1970 levels by 2050.
“Such ambition is justified and essential,” the letter reads. “It is justified because we have abundant evidence of interventions that work to secure the future of species at risk of extinction in Britain (e.g. for bitterns, buntings, marsh fritillaries, larger horseshoe bats).
“It is essential because we need a change of pace on a response scale to ensure that these species not just survive but thrive, and that declining but still widespread species such as larks and curlews are restored and continue to enrich lives and landscapes around the world. Britain. “
A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The goals we are consulting under the Environmental Law are ambitious, world-leading and based on the latest science – and we welcome any further evidence presented to this consultation.
“We are going beyond what is required by the Convention on Biological Diversity, proposing legally binding targets to address biodiversity loss.”