Wildlife: Britain’s nature has suffered a ‘lost decade’ with many species on the brink, RSPB claims

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The Government’s failure to meet conservation targets has resulted in British wildlife suffering a ‘lost decade’, with many species close to extinction, the RSPB warned.

Not enough investment has been made to protect nature, the charity said, while the UK was not meeting international goals for protecting land and sea habitats. 

Analysis from the UK Government of progress towards international goals agreed in 2010 claim it has met or exceeded only five of 20 targets for this year.

However, an independent assessment by the RSPB has suggested that the UK is actually performing even worse than in the official analysis.

In fact, they warned, the Government has made either no progress or has been going in the wrong direction in six of the areas.

Britain needs to implement new, legally binding national targets — backed up with sufficient funding — to protect wildlife, the conservation charity added.

The Government's failure to meet conservation targets has resulted in British wildlife suffering a 'lost decade', with many species close to extinction, the RSPB warned. Pictured, a redshank — one of the United Kingdom's threatened bird species

The Government’s failure to meet conservation targets has resulted in British wildlife suffering a ‘lost decade’, with many species close to extinction, the RSPB warned. Pictured, a redshank — one of the United Kingdom’s threatened bird species

The warning from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds comes on the eve of the publication of the United Nation’s latest Global Biodiversity Outlook report, which will warn that the world has failed to halt declines across the natural world.

A total of 196 nations signed the so-called Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010 — in which they agreed to meet a series of goals to protect nature with the deadline for meeting the targets being this year.

Post-2020 targets were due to be set out during a major conference in China this year, however this has had to be postponed as a result of COVID-19.

In the United Kingdom, there has been no progress on the target to prevent extinction and improve the fortunes of threatened species, with two-fifths of species having been in decline since 1970, the RSPB has warned.

Furthermore, they charity has asserted that not enough land of ocean is being protected or managed for nature, despite the Government reporting that 28 per cent of land and 24 percent of the seas being under protection.

These figures include such designations as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but many areas do not provide for nature, the RSPB said.

The RSPB has pointed to the overall poor health of upland peatland, an important natural habitat, as well as the Wash — England’s largest Site of Special Scientific Interest — where populations of threatened birds like redshanks are in sharp decline.

Meanwhile, effective management of marine protected areas is ‘severely lacking’, a report from the conservation charity has warned — while public funding to protect nature has declined across the past decade.

The charity is calling for the Government to back ambitious global conservation goal and commit to conserving 30 per cent of the UK’s land and seas by the year 2030. 

Furthermore, they added, there needs to be a strong Fisheries Bill which helps marine areas recover, fundamental reform of agriculture policy to support nature-friendly farming, and a ‘substantial’ increase in funding for conservation.

The UK will need to spend £2.9 billion a year over the next decade on environmental land management, the RSPB has claimed, including £615 million annually specifically to restore and create habitats.

‘The UK is not alone in failing to meet the ambitious targets set out 10 years ago, but it is now time that the high ambitions set by successive governments becomes action,’ said RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight.

‘Every country in the UK must create legally binding targets to restore nature, invest in nature and green jobs, and support farmers to produce healthy food that’s good for people, climate and wildlife.’

‘We have to put our money where our mouth is and use the next decade to do something truly impressive.’

‘We are committed to a greener future, which is why we are leading the world by setting ambitious goals for nature and biodiversity in our landmark Environment Bill,’ a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said.

Furthermore, they added, the department is ‘introducing new ways to reward farmers for protecting the environment and investing £640 million in the Nature for Climate Fund.’

‘Furthermore we remain the first major economy to legislate for net zero and as we build back greener from the coronavirus pandemic we are committed to shaping a cleaner and more resilient society.’ 

EXTINCTION LOOMS FOR MORE THAN ONE MILLION SPECIES

Nature is in more trouble now than at any time in human history with extinction looming over one million species of plants and animals, experts say.

That’s the key finding of the United Nations‘ (UN) first comprehensive report on biodiversity – the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat.

The report – published on May 6, 2019 – says species are being lost at a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past. 

Many of the worst effects can be prevented by changing the way we grow food, produce energy, deal with climate change and dispose of waste, the report said.

The report’s 39-page summary highlighted five ways people are reducing biodiversity:

– Turning forests, grasslands and other areas into farms, cities and other developments. The habitat loss leaves plants and animals homeless. About three-quarters of Earth’s land, two-thirds of its oceans and 85% of crucial wetlands have been severely altered or lost, making it harder for species to survive, the report said.

– Overfishing the world’s oceans. A third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished.

– Permitting climate change from the burning of fossil fuels to make it too hot, wet or dry for some species to survive. Almost half of the world’s land mammals – not including bats – and nearly a quarter of the birds have already had their habitats hit hard by global warming.

– Polluting land and water. Every year, 300 to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge are dumped into the world’s waters.

– Allowing invasive species to crowd out native plants and animals. The number of invasive alien species per country has risen 70 per cent since 1970, with one species of bacteria threatening nearly 400 amphibian species.

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