Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 25th May 2023.
What progress her Department has made on its target to halt species decline by 2030.
Halting species decline is a considerable task, but one to which we are absolutely committed. Again, I recommend the perusal of our environmental improvement plan, which summarises the significant action taken so far, but let me give a few examples. We have created or restored plant and wildlife habitats equivalent to the size of Dorset, we have established 40,000 agreements with farmers on nature-friendly actions, we have 22 landscape-scale restoration projects under way, and we have benefited from the conservation status and prospects of 188 species.
The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Research conducted by the Natural History Museum has revealed that when it comes to the amount of biodiversity that survives, we are at the very bottom of the list of G7 nations and among the lowest 10% globally. Thousands of badgers continue to be slaughtered unnecessarily; that, along with bee-killing neonic pesticides, has been authorised by this Government, who have also have failed to act to stop illegal hunting or effectively limit peatland extraction or moorland burning. Moreover, they have missed the legal deadline for the publication of their own environmental targets. Given all these facts, how can we now trust them to ensure that some of our most loved and iconic British animals do not become extinct?
I point to the Environment Act 2021. I also point out that the real priority for species abundance is creating habitat, and in a country where 70% of our area is farmed, that is exactly why we have our environmental land management schemes. We are planting more trees and creating more habitats. We are investing £750 million to create more opportunities to plant trees and hedgerows. We are improving the air that all species breathe and improving water quality. We are putting everything we can in legal targets and interim targets, as well as in moral ambition, on the back of our environmental improvement plan.