The Government has come under fire for its record of “failing to keep promises” on the environment ahead of global talks aimed at reversing nature losses.
The Wildlife Trusts have outlined more than a dozen missing or overdue plans and legislative measures, which the coalition of local wildlife groups warn is undermining the UK’s ability to restore the natural environment.
They range from overdue environmental targets on clean water, uncertainty over new nature-friendly farming schemes, and a lack of legislation for banning horticultural peat to stalled plans to reintroduce beavers and bring in deposit return schemes to cut plastic pollution.
The Trusts also warn that the Retained EU Law Bill threatens over a thousand pre-Brexit laws that protect the environment, including safeguards for wild places and wildlife, and minimum standards for water quality and pollution.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, accused the Government of setting a “dismal example” to the rest of the world, ahead of the “Cop15” nature summit in Montreal, where it is hoped countries will negotiate a new treaty to halt and reverse nature losses by 2030.
The draft deal includes plans to protect 30% of land and seas by 2030, but the Wildlife Trusts said Britain’s failures on the environment would prevent it from delivering on that key principle.
Among the promised policies that the Government is failing to deliver is its pledge to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030. Only 3.22% of England’s land is effectively protected for nature according to conservation groups, and there is no clear plan of how it will get to the 30% figure in just seven years.
Also missing is action on making sure national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) support the restoration of wildlife and habitats, a new legally binding policy statement on environmental principles, and regulations for local authorities to produce local nature recovery strategies, the Trusts say.
Mr Bennett said: “The UK Government has a record of making big environmental announcements to get headlines, but then failing to keep promises.
“When it does follow through, the policies are so dramatically watered-down that they bear little resemblance to the ambition of the original promise.
“The UK Government is setting a dismal example to the rest of the world.
“It’s putting nature into reverse gear at a time when it should be setting a world-leading example at Cop15. ”
And he said: “If the UK wants to be a world leader on climate and nature it must scrap the appalling Retained EU Law (revocation and reform) Bill which threatens to remove or weaken the laws that protect wild places and species.
“It must also reward famers for restoring the environment, not polluting it, and it must get stuck into its long-overdue to-do list as soon as possible.
“If not, we’re ill-equipped to deal with the crisis on our own doorsteps let alone advise the rest of the world,” he warned.