BES response to government plans to tackle the nature and climate crises

Today (18 May) Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rt Hon George Eustice MP delivered a speech at Delamere Forest setting out how the government is planning to tackle the decline in nature, with plans to increase England’s tree planting and restore peatlands.

Jane Memmott
British Ecological Society President Jane Memmott responds to update from the government on plans to tackle the nature and climate crises.

The speech by Rt Hon George Eustice MP included the announcement of a new target on species populations for 2030 aimed at halting species decline, a new Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme to support the restoration of 35,000 hectares of degraded peatland in England, and an action plan to treble tree planting by the end of this Parliament .

Jane Memmott, President of the British Ecological Society, said:

“With 41% of UK species in decline, we welcome the government’s announcement of a 2030 legally binding target to halt this alarming trend.

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in Europe. So ambitious and evidence-based targets are essential to first restore, and then improve the state of nature across our land.

“We are pleased to see a focus on peatlands and tree planting in today’s announcement. Our recently published report on nature-based solutions in the UK, identified both habitats as priorities to combat the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

“A grant scheme to support the restoration of 35,000 hectares of degraded peatland is an important step. However, this is still only a small fraction of the UK’s 2.6 million hectares of peatlands, of which only 20% is considered in a near-natural state. There is still much more work to be done to protect these important, carbon-storing environments.

“Plans to treble tree planting rates in England are promising but the devil is in the detail. It’s vital that we protect our wildlife-rich ancient woodlands and that newly planted trees are the right species, planted in the right places. For example, tree planting on peatlands, species-rich grasslands and other organic soils actually risks releasing carbon while being detrimental to the many rare and important species already there.”