The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has issued a stern warning in a recent report, stating that the English government is falling short on nearly all its environmental targets. This failure puts England’s nature at risk of an irreversible degradation, threatening the goal to halt nature’s decline by 2030.

Dame Glenys Stacey, chair of the OEP, underscored the urgency of the situation. “The environment is not yet set irreversibly in a spiral of decline, but adverse trends continue, and significantly so in relation to climate change,” she said. “Our stakeholders in government tell us the statutory species abundance targets are demanding but could be achieved, albeit doubt is mounting that they will be.”

The damning report reveals that the government is failing to adequately protect the environment on multiple fronts, ranging from the recovery of native British species numbers to water quality management and regulation of toxic chemicals and pesticides.

In 2021, the Environment Act established legally binding targets for ministers to meet regarding nature and the environment. However, the OEP’s recent findings indicate that these targets are at risk of not being met without significant policy changes and improvements.

Natalie Prossed, the Chief Executive of the OEP, suggested that legal action against the government may be on the table if the environmental targets continue to be missed.

“Taking legal action will remain under active consideration if ministers continue to fail to meet environmental targets,” she warned.

The report, which assesses the period from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, concluded that the government is largely on track to achieve four out of 40 environmental targets set for England, partly on track for 11, and largely off track for 10. A further 15 targets could not be assessed due to insufficient evidence.

Stacey expressed disappointment in the government’s slow response and lack of detailed plans. “Despite the revision of the government’s Environment Improvement Plan (EIP), it is not clear how, or indeed whether, government will protect, restore and significantly improve the environment at the scale needed, nor how it will meet the statutory targets,” she said.

The report highlighted specific areas of failure, including slow tree planting rates and a lack of promised strategies for chemicals and land use. These strategies are deemed crucial tools for meeting the targets set by the EIP.

As England’s nature faces an uncertain future, the OEP’s report underscores the urgent need for the English government to step up its efforts and meet its environmental commitments. The fate of England’s nature hangs in the balance, and time is running out.

Source: The Guardian