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Government’s environment targets hardly worth the two months wait
The Environment Act 2021 required the government to publish a suite of environment targets by the end of October 2022 – but they failed to do so.
Now, almost two months late and coming at the very end of the COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, the government have published the headlines of those targets, to which details will be added in 2023.
The targets are meant to give us legal certainty in how the government was going to improve on things such as water quality, air quality and biodiversity. A consultation on the draft targets was launched in March 2022 and received over 180,000 responses, including strong recommendations from the Angling Trust.
In responding to the announcement on 16th December, Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, said:
“It hardly seemed worth the wait. Not only did the government miss their own legal deadline, but the announcement, when it finally came, lacked any detail. That has been pushed into next year, so in short, beyond a government attempt at a bit of positive PR we are none the wiser.
“It seems, the government targets will have not taken us forward from the consultation in March 2022. When it comes to water quality, while they have targets for nitrate reductions from agriculture, and phosphate reductions from sewage, they have failed to adopt the recommendations from us and many other river groups. There is no target to assess the overall health of our rivers and they are already rowing back on their commitments under the Water Framework Directive, now only requiring more water bodies to be in their ‘natural state’, a vague term.
“The government remains committed to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 and increase abundance by 2042 so it is greater than now, with at least a 10% increase by 2030. But in the consultation, no fish species were included in the assessment of how they will measure this. Until we see the detail, we remain in the dark on how this is going to improve outcomes for our fish.
“At the end of the day this is a nicely wrapped Christmas present, but when you open the box you find it empty.”
The government will be publishing its ‘Environmental Improvement Plan’ on 31st January 2023. This will add detail to the legally binding targets, and the non-binding interim targets. Parliament will have to approve them, and the Angling Trust will continue to campaign to see improvement for our rivers, for water quality, and for the fish that depend on a healthy, clean, environment.