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Biodiversity in the UK
Prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to protect 30% of land in the UK by 2030 has been cautiously welcomed by conservationists. But they warn that targets need to be legally binding to avoid the creation of “paper parks” that fail to safeguard nature in practice.
Johnson announced at a virtual UN event on Monday that an additional 400,000 hectares of land in England would be protected for nature, with the promise of “ambitious goals and binding targets”.
Johnson joined 64 leaders from around the world to make pledges to tackle catastrophic nature lost ahead of today’s summit. The announcement was very welcome but the government overestimates how much land is effectively protected, said Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts. Many of the country’s designated wildlife areas are in poor condition and do not support the wildlife they are meant to provide refuge for.
Our National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) are landscape not wildlife designations, and many of these places are severely depleted of wildlife because of overgrazing, poor management or intensive agricultural practices. Our Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are supposed to be protected for nature but even around half of these are in a poor state and suffering wildlife declines.
In England, 26% of land is protected, but an estimated 5% is being well managed for nature. This existing land needs to be much better protected for the prime minster to deliver on this pledge. “Instead of creating more pointless ‘paper parks,’ the prime minister needs to lay out concrete plans and binding legal targets to halt and begin to reverse the decline of nature on land and at sea by 2030,” said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace.
The announcement comes after analysis by RSPB found the UK failed to reach 17 out of 20 UN biodiversity targets, because pledges were not matched by action on the ground, resulting in a “lost decade for nature”.
We risk another decade of failure unless biodiversity pledges are put into domestic law like Paris climate agreements, said Martin Harper, director of global conservation at the RSPB. “If then properly backed by a reformed systems of farm payments and new dedicated resources for habitat restoration, which would allow places like our national parks to become an engine for nature’s recovery, we’ll then have a fighting chance to revive our world,” he said.
A 2019 State of Nature report found one in ten UK species is threatened with extinction, with 41% of species in decline. Caroline Lucas, MP for the Green Party, said it was not enough to “talk about protecting nature on the one hand then undermine that action on the other”.
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Combative Bolsonaro pledges to exploit Brazil’s ‘huge wealth of resources’
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Brazilian foreign minister Ernesto Araujo – who has previously dismissed the climate crisis as a Marxist plot – had been listed to represent his country in the place of president Jair Bolsonaro but the South American leader will now speak. Governments will listen to what the Brazilian leader has to say with great interest as his stance on the environment could have a major sway over the final Kunming agreement.
Brazil has traditionally been a major player in UN environmental circles through its impressive diplomatic machine. But under Bolsonaro, the Amazon rainforest continues to burn and many fear Brazil’s leader is steering his country towards environmental ruin.
Last week the president hit back at the UN general assembly for a second year in a row about how the Amazon has been treated under his leadership, claiming Brazil was the target of a “brutal disinformation campaign”.
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