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Environment Act: Enhancing UK Habitats by 2030

Kate Byng-Hall offers an update on Mary Jane Amato's report breaking down the UK government's environmental promises, and how they look set to be fulfilled.

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As part of a broader plan to reform the global energy sector by 2050, bringing it to net-zero emissions, the UK government has pledged to reach a net-zero wildlife loss by 2030. But is this actually achievable?

Experts have warned that to tackle climate change and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, there are some priority actions that must take place. These include investing in clean energy such as solar and wind, while still ensuring that sustainable energy supplies will become widely-available and sufficiently affordable.

The question that arises now, however, is whether this will be possible within the established timeframe – and what it would mean if the deadline isn’t met.

Announcement of the Net-Zero Plans

On 18 May 2021, during The Wildlife Trust Event, the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, announced the post-pandemic plans to return nature in the UK to a greener state. The devised strategies revolved around tree planting, species reproduction and peatland restoration in England, including subjecting peat sales to public consultation.

The Wildlife Trust has called for the imperative application of specific actions to protect wildlife and endangered species. These programmes include:

  • Mapping out new natural spots and placing them in areas convenient to both nature itself and people.

  • Planning for the future of communities in a way that does not put nature in danger.

  • Protecting marine areas for at least 30% of their extension.

  • Banning the sale of peat in compost, and eventually ceasing its use altogether.

  • Creating a specific habitat for the protection of trees, joining up woods in order to support wildlife while still allowing easy access to people.

Craig Bennet, chief executive of The Wildlife Trust, has said of the Government's road-building projects:

"Serious investment in nature could provide a green recovery which addresses the twin crises of our age – climate change and loss of the natural world – while simultaneously providing many more jobs."

In his opinion, any economic recovery plan is vital to tackle the climate crisis and ensure the protection of endangered species. He has stated that there will be an amendment to the Environment Bill, requiring an additional target for 2030 to stop nature's decline and the loss of species, a plan that will be backed by £500 million in climate finance.

The Cornwall G7 Summit of June 2021

On 11-13 June, the heads of state of the G7 came together in Cornwall to discuss global issues and economic ameliorations, including debates surrounding climate change. Conversations on progressing in climate change management and facing the climate crisis were at the centre of the Summit.

The UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was this year's host, seemed adamant in protecting the natural environment. A renewed commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set out a goal to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, emerged at the G7 Summit, and a decision to achieve this by blocking biodiversity loss was settled.

Moreover, the G7 leaders committed to offering developing nations $2.8 billion to help them switch to cleaner fuels, as well as deploying $100 billion from public and private sources until 2025 to help these countries front the effect of climate change.

A Reality Check in July 2021

Between a promise and its realisation stand a number of challenges that might alter the course of events. Just a couple of months later, here we are, already witnessing a change of tide in this ocean of imperative pledges and bold statements.

Is this rise in commitment just a decoy used to distract from the fact that the actions taken are not nearly enough to reach the targets, or is there a genuine desire to meet these goals?

UPDATE: Environment Act 2021

In a promising development, the Environment Act has just been passed, with aims of improving air and water quality, tackling waste, increasing recycling, halting the decline of species and improving the UK's natural environment.

The government has stated the legislation will "protect and enhance our environment for future generations" through cleaning up the country’s air, restoring natural habitats, increasing biodiversity, reducing waste and better utilising national resources.

One of the key objectives is to cease species loss by 2030 as previously promised, as well as to develop improved habitats and tackle overseas deforestation. People will also be incentivised to lead more sustainable lives through recycling, using sustainable packaging and stopping the exportation of plastic waste to developing countries.

"The Environment Act will deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth. [...] We are setting an example for the rest of the world to follow." - Environment Secretary George Eustice


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