Government’s proposed environmental targets don’t go far enough

Following on from the Environment Act 2021, Defra has consulted on Environmental Targets for England. Government recognises that nature is in decline, and urgent action is needed to support the natural environment. They have set out a series of long-term targets to hopefully achieve this. We have today submitted the CIEEM response to the consultation. We have also contributed to and supported the Wildlife and Countryside Link and Environmental Policy Forum consultation responses.

The targets have the potential to improve clarity and consistency for delivery of nature conservation and management measures and set nature on a path to recovery. However, in our view the targets are not ambitious enough, in their current form, to halt environmental decline.

We support the Wildlife and Countryside Link’s calls for a clear set of outcome targets under relevant apex targets. Interim targets and milestones to measure progress along the way are also needed. Targets should be ambitious and stretching, yet achievable. However, in some cases the evidence packs published by Defra suggest that the Government could go further but this is not reflected in the targets given, for example in the long-term wider habitats target.

We are confused by the incoherence of the target timelines, as they do not align with each other nor with existing targets making them unnecessarily complex. Aligned target years would simplify the process for those working to meet them.

There is also nothing in the targets on soils, invasive species or nitrogen in the water environment. These are critical issues to achieving the targets that are proposed and thus should be given action targets.

We are pleased to see the Government recognising that finance and capital has a critical role to play in reaching these targets, and that a step change in investment flows is needed. However we are disappointed that no public funding is mentioned. If these targets are to be met there must be public funding, at least to prime private investment but we suggest this go further to support the public bodies that will be tasked with delivering these ambitions.

Linked to funding and resourcing, there is no mention of who will collect the data that underpin the targets and we are concerned that this will be left to NGOs, volunteer recorders and citizen scientists. There must be a fully resourced plan to collect ongoing data to inform progress against the targets.

To read CIEEM’s full response please see our consultation response in the Resource Hub.