United Kingdom May Fail To Meet Its Environmental Goals

The European Union is often praised for its aggressive efforts to combat climate change. After Brexit, however, many EU countries have been worried that the United Kingdom will fail to meet its environmental goals. As the Guardian reported this past Thursday, the United Kingdom is due to missing the biodiversity targets agreed to in Japan during the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

United Kingdom May Fail To Meet Its Environmental Goals

The Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs released a report analyzing biodiversity indicators for 2020 on October 15th. Compiling data from over 100 organizations, they determined that while some indicators show improvement in “designation of protected sites, such as an increase in sustainably managed forests and fisheries,” public sector funding for conservation decreased and the population of priority species declined.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made several speeches advocating for green policies over the first week of October. He pledged to protect 30% of UK land for biodiversity purposes, but with a reputation for false-promises, it’s worth looking into the policy details. Conserved land was mostly set aside for “beauty, not wildlife” including walking trails and overgrazed uplands with little value for biodiversity conservation; the policy really only sets aside approximately 4% of the land.

The UK’s EU membership had been a big reason for its environmental performance and occasional spotlight as a global leader in combating climate change; the legal deterrent of the European Court of Justice and the European Commission had been most effective. During the ongoing trade talks (pushing for a long-term trade agreement between the EU and the UK), EU member states led by Germany have made an enforcement mechanism one of their sticking points of the agreement.

The UK, despite 25% of voters had made the environment one of their top three priorities, do want to have the freedom to change regulations if they choose to do so. The UK is in the process of passing the Environmental Bill, which would set high environmental goals and establish an Office for Environmental Protection as an environmental watchdog to ensure enforcement of those goals. While the bill isn’t as strong as EU membership, it’s a step in the right direction.

Scotland has proposed its own equivalent and Wales is due to do the same. While both Scotland and Wales have pushed forward with ambitious environmental goals, North Ireland has been lagging behind.

So how does this all relate to the UK’s biodiversity goals? The environment clearly hasn’t fallen entirely out of its mind’s eye, but the UK has demonstrated that it needs to be pushed to meet its goals. As CBD is a UN body, it can only encourage sustainable policies. The forthcoming weeks which follow the Brexit trade talks should determine whether or not the EU will provide a strict hand where CBD cannot, but until then, PM Johnson’s misleading green speeches will have to do.

Originally published at insider

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