ScienceBiodiversity: UK environment watchdog rebukes government for slow action...

Biodiversity: UK environment watchdog rebukes government for slow action on nature


Slow progress on the UK’s 25-year environment plan could lead to ecological tipping points such as collapsing fish stocks, says the Office for Environmental Protection



Environment



12 May 2022

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Maureen McLean/Shutterstock (12879001d) Pollution on the Jubilee River in Taplow. During 2021, water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers in England 372,533 times. By 2040 the sewage discharges into rivers is targetted to be reduced by 40%, however, many environmentalists say this is too little, too late Pollution, Jubilee River, Taplow, Buckinghamshire, UK - 02 Apr 2022

Pollution on the Jubilee river in Taplow, UK

Maureen McLean/Shutterstock

The UK’s post-Brexit “green watchdog” has criticised the government’s slow progress on its flagship plan to protect and restore nature, warning that a “stately” pace of action could lead to environmental tipping points including collapses in fish stocks.

In its first public intervention since being created by law in November 2021, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) warned of worrying declines in the numbers of birds and other wildlife, and lamented falling funding for monitoring the health of rivers and soil.

“We’re edging seemingly inexorably towards real tipping points for the environment,” says Glenys Stacey, chair of the OEP, a new independent agency designed to safeguard environmental standards after the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Overall progress on the government’s 25-year environment plan, launched four years ago, has been too slow, the group said in a report today. Policies since 2018 have failed to reverse declining biodiversity or significantly improve polluted waterways and the air, the watchdog said.

Only 16 per cent of rivers in England were in good ecological health, the group pointed out, while only 33 of the UK’s 44 air quality zones complied with annual limits on nitrogen dioxide, a harmful pollutant mainly produced by diesel cars. Stacey says progress to arrest degradation of the marine environment has been weak, and was “stately at best”.

Simon Brockington at the OEP says the pace of progress means the UK is nearing ecological tipping points  “where a very slow and persistent and gradual decline suddenly becomes catastrophic”. He says examples include setting fish catch quotas too high, destructive “bottom trawling” of the sea floor and nutrient run-off from farmland, which can pollute waterways.

Outside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), cross-government support for the 25-year plan lacks the gravitas or urgency of the UK’s net zero goal, the group adds. “Our message to government is clear: do not delay making the changes necessary to protect, restore, [and] improve the environment,” says Stacey.

Senior environmental figures in government told New Scientist they hope the intervention by the OEP injects some momentum to meet the aims of the 25-year plan, which is meant to deliver on a 2011 pledge to “leave our environment in a better state than we found it”. The new report indicates that the UK is no closer to that goal now than it was at a damning assessment by the country’s spending watchdog two years ago.

Craig Bennett from the Wildlife Trusts charity says of the report: “We strongly agree with this. There is a problem within government: there’s just not a sense of the kind of timescales and urgency needed.” He says too often policy announcements on nature were piecemeal and moves by some departments undermined Defra’s positive steps.

The OEP, which since January has had legal powers to take enforcement action against public authorities for environmental failings, revealed it had already received 39 complaints from members of the public.

Defra says it welcomes the report and will respond to its recommendations later this summer.

More on these topics:



Original Source Link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest News

To Find Space In A Historic New York Building, Look Up

Perched atop a turn of the century...

U.S. To Host Rugby World Cup For First Time

Rugby’s biggest tournament is finally heading to the United States.Now comes the hard part for the sport’s leadership:...

On The Count Of Three Shares A Strange Connection With A Morgan Freeman Movie

Jerrod Carmichael has no fear when it comes to confronting uncomfortable issues. His NBC series "The Carmichael Show"...

Stock futures fall slightly with S&P 500 teetering on edge of a bear market

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., May...

Bitcoin Solves Unemployment In Africa

African youth make up the largest demographic of the continent and yet they suffer the most due to...

FirstFT: China to put ‘strict’ limits on citizens travelling abroad

Good morning. This article is an on-site version of our FirstFT newsletter. Sign up to our Asia, Europe/Africa...

Must Read

- Advertisement -

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you