Government falling ‘far short’ on improving the environment

Countryfile: John Craven’s passionate speech about pollution

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The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) said the Government’s progress to improve the environment “falls far short” of what is needed following an independent review.

It said ministers should do more to close the gap between the state of the environment and the Government’s vision for the future.

OEP Chair Dame Glenys Stacey said: “Progress on delivery of the 25 Year Environment Plan has fallen far short of what is needed to meet Government’s ambition to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.

“There have been recent improvements in air quality and people’s engagement with nature, as Covid lockdowns changed the way we live our lives.

“But many extremely worrying environmental trends remain unchecked.”

Dame Glenys warned the current pace and scale of action will not deliver the changes necessary to significantly improve the environment in England.

But she added that “there is clear opportunity to change course.”

The report welcomed some improvements in air quality in recent years and said people’s engagement with nature has risen.

The country is witnessing a chronic decline in species abundance, the report warned.

The Government is required by law to halt this decline by 2030 but the condition of many areas of land essential to threatened species has continued to deteriorate.

Dame Glenys said: “We urge Government to be bold, to prioritise those aspects of the environment most needy of attention, to make sure it is monitoring those aspects closely, and to concentrate on delivery and the governance and organisation necessary to get the right things done in time.”

England’s greenhouse gas emissions are reducing overall but this is not enough, the OEP said.

It found that of 32 trends assessed across the breadth of the natural environment, nine trends were improving, eleven were static, and eight were deteriorating.

Of 23 environmental targets assessed, none were found where the Government’s progress was demonstrably on track

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman Philip Dunne MP said: “It is deeply disappointing that progress against so many crucial targets is falling short of what is needed to secure nature recovery.

“We face a nature and climate emergency and the importance of restoring nature cannot be overestimated.”

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