At a virtual United Nations event later today, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will sign the Leaders Pledge for Nature, committing to protect an additional 400,000 hectares of land for nature recovery.
The additional protected areas will bring the total percentage of land designated under National Parks, AONBs and other protected areas to 30% in England.
We welcome the ambition of this pledge which recognises the calls from academics and conservation groups to ramp up protection for nature. However, if the goal is implemented as stated, it will not deliver the required benefits for nature.
Firstly, UK National Parks and AONBs are not primarily nature conservation designations (rather they are landscape designations) and biodiversity does not have absolute protection within them; indeed harmful farming practices and developments continue to occur.
Currently, the land area protected for nature in England is closer to 10% and the condition of designated sites for nature, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest has declined over the last two decades.
In the Prime Minister’s speech, he will call for immediate action to protect biodiversity. This must be reflected in the actions following the pledge, improving condition of existing sites and designating areas with the restoration of nature as a priority.
The Leaders Pledge for Nature commits world leaders to take ten urgent actions, including on sustainable food production, ending the illegal wildlife trade and implementing nature-based solutions for climate change.
The UK has played a key role in negotiating the Pledge, alongside partners such as Costa Rica and the EU.