The Government will set binding long-term targets to crack down on air and water pollution, as part of plans to reverse declines in UK nature.
The Environment Bill, which set outs the UK’s post-Brexit plans for nature, will include legally binding targets for cleaner air, cleaner water, less waste and more biodiversity, Environment Secretary George Eustice announced today.
“The targets we set under our landmark Environment Bill will be the driving force behind our bold action to protect and enhance our natural world – guaranteeing real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today,” he promised.
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The final targets will be subject to consultation. But a goal to reduce the level of harmful particulate matter known as PM2.5, which can burrow deep into the lungs and cause serious health complications, is expected. There is also likely to be a further push to cut plastic pollution, alongside a crack down on water pollution from agriculture and sewage outflows. Creating “wildlife rich” habitats across the country will also be a priority.
Most of the goals will have a minimum 15-year timespan, with five-year interim goals to keep ministers on track.
Studies over the last few years point to a dramatic drop in the numbers of insects in globally, with pesticides, fertilizers, agricultural monocultures, urban expansion and the reduction in wild, natural spaces as likely causes (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Campaigners hope the goals will help to drive improvements in UK nature after decades of decline. Populations of some of the UK’s most important wildlife have plummeted by 60 per cent since 1970, only 14 per cent of English rivers are in meet minimum ecological standards, and air pollution levels are well above ‘safe’ limits set by the World Health Organisation.
Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of the Wildlife and Countryside Link, said the proposals suggest the targets will be “bold” and go “well beyond the statutory minimum”.
But he said the Bill should also include a “headline goal” to reverse nature’s decline, alongside a commitment to manage 30 per cent of land and 30 per cent of sea for nature by 2030.
“We know that the biggest risks to our economy and society are ecological risks, so clear political resolve to restore nature is fundamental to a green recovery,” he said.
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