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‘Seven crucial years’

Government has ‘mountain to climb’ to deliver protected land and sea commitment for England
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Cotswold Water Park, South Cerney, Cotswolds

Main image: Cotswold Water Park, one of the new areas the government has declared a site of special scientific interest (SSSIs)

A new House of Lords report, published today (Wednesday 26 July), has revealed that the government has a mountain to climb if it is to deliver its international commitment to protect 30% of England’s land and sea for nature by 2030 – the ’30 by 30’ target agreed at the Montreal COP15 biodiversity conference in 2022.
The Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee’s report warns that with seven years remaining, the extent of land protected for nature in England that can count towards ‘30 by 30’ sits at just 6.5%, meaning an area almost one and a half times the size of Wales will be required if we are to hit the target.

An ‘extraordinary challenge’

The Committee’s report – An extraordinary challenge: restoring 30 per cent of our land and sea by 2030 – also found that protected sites in England, which can include land that has multiple uses, are often in a poor condition and in many cases inadequately monitored.

While welcoming the government’s ambitions to meet the stretching target by 2030, the Committee’s report concludes that it is not clear how the government plans to achieve ’30 by 30’, and that a major step change in its approach to protected areas is required to deliver the commitment it made.

Recommendations for government

The Committee is calling on the government to create more protected areas, retaining all existing designations, whilst ensuring existing protected areas are better managed to achieve favourable condition.

It also wants areas to be protected for nature for more than 30 years to meet the ‘30 by 30’ criteria.

‘Our report makes it clear that the Government faces a huge challenge to meet the ‘30 by 30’ target it signed up to last year.
‘The Government must designate more areas to be protected, meeting international criteria, and manage and monitor all protected areas better to achieve favourable condition.

‘Time is running out to halt species decline and recover nature for the public good. We are therefore calling on the Government to act urgently as it has just seven crucial years to fulfil its nature crisis pledge.’

Chair of the Environment and Climate Change Committee

The Committee would like to see a management plan in place, with effective monitoring for protected areas on land based on an up-to-date condition assessment which must be updated every six years.
It recommends expanding the current marine monitoring programme, both inshore and offshore, to develop a robust baseline of data that should be made publicly available.

The Committee is calling for more public awareness of local protected sites and better communication regarding the role we can all play in protecting them, including unleashing and harnessing citizen science for data collection.

It wants the next legislative opportunity to be used to place a statutory duty on Natural England to monitor Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and ensure the resulting data is published.

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