Log in | Register

More action needed to reverse decline in biodiversity – but it can be done, UK bodies say

Wildflowers / iStock: 168356105

Outcomes for nature need to be integrated in development plans on land and at sea, according to a report published by the UK's five statutory nature organisations.

Natural England (NE), Natural Resources Wales (NRW), NatureScot, Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) have urged that greater action and investment, as well as the embracing of natural solutions, are crucial to reversing biodiversity decline by 2030.

In September 2020, political leaders that took part in the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity committed to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030. The five organisations' report, Nature Positive 2030, considers how the UK can meet commitments made in the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature.

The report also notes that achieving such nature commitments will deliver "huge" benefits to human health, wellbeing and the economy – but that transformative change will be required across society as well as in the way nature is engaged with, valued, protected and used.

The crises of biodiversity loss and climate change need to be tackled together or neither will be tackled, the report warns. Using natural solutions to tackle climate change will be important, it says; nature's ability to help the human population survive an uncertain future depends, the report's authors argue, on biodiverse ecosystems that are resilient to change.

The target to be nature positive by 2030 can be achieved if action is taken now; what happens in the next few years, the report says, "is critical". In order for species populations to begin recovering by 2030, wildlife habitats need to be created and restored now. Creating and restoring biodiverse habitats on both land and in seas locks up carbon, while nature-based solutions can help the planet adapt to climate change, such as by reducing flood risk.

The report sets out nine changes that can be delivered "rapidly" by national and local governments, land owners, businesses and other to help reverse biodiversity loss this decade, including:

  • Ensuring wildlife thrives within protected areas on land and at sea through improving their management and tackling sources of harm. Protected areas need to be the beating hearts of nature networks, supporting thriving species populations that spill out across the network.
  • Better conserving wildlife habitats outside protected areas, in particular those places identified as parts of nature networks or as important blue/green infrastructure.
  • Integrating outcomes for nature into developments on land and at sea, ensuring access to nature is improved, and delivering a wide range of health and other benefits.
  • Deploying Nature-based Solutions by default. Decision makers need to start by asking themselves ‘can nature provide a solution?
  • Developing the UK’s evidence base so that it is ready to support the larger, transformative changes underway.
  • Adopting targets to become nature positive, so that nature goals are put on an equal footing with climate change ambitions.

Addressed as one

A report by The Wildlife Trusts, published in June 2020, also insisted that the climate and nature crises should be tackled together as one. It outlined that a wide range of land habitats – grasslands, peatlands and wetlands – should be restored to store carbon. Restoring them is one of “the most cost-effective nature-based solutions”, it emphasised.

Read more here on The Planner.

Francesca Osowska, chief executive at NatureScot, said: “It is everyone’s responsibility to be nature positive. We know the twin crises of climate change and nature loss are inextricably linked – we do both, or do neither.

“Scotland is stepping up to the challenges we face so that we can deliver our ambition of a nature positive future.

“So, as we prepare to host COP26 in Glasgow, this is a crucial time to take bold, positive action for both nature and the climate.”

Natural England chair, Tony Juniper, commented: “Nature recovery is within our grasp - we can become nature positive by 2030, provided we act now. We need to go high nature and low carbon, tackling the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change together, and today’s publication sets out how we can do this.

“In the past year heads of state from many countries, including from the UK, have made hugely important commitments to recover nature, in recognition that this is essential to our health, well-being and a sustainable, prosperous economy. Achieving these commitments will require transformative change across society and in the way we protect, value, use and engage with nature. We believe these commitments are achievable and our report shows how we can succeed in becoming nature positive by 2030 as an essential milestone on the path to full nature recovery.”

Nature Positive 2030 can be found on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee website.

Image credit | iStock