WARWICKSHIRE Wildlife Trust’s (WWT) youth ambassadors are calling on the Government for more ambitious Government targets to halt and reverse nature’s decline.
Two of WWT ambassadors joined other young people from across the country at Downing Street to hand in a 60,000-strong petition, and over 10,000 personal views shared by the public, all calling for urgent action.
The Government will soon set legally binding targets for nature’s recovery. Campaigners say it is is urgently needed because the UK is one of the most wildlife-depleted countries in the world and habitat loss and degradation continue to blight people’s lives and affect nature’s ability to store carbon.
WWT youth ambassador Matt Newbould, 19, said: “I come from a small town called Southam, one of many which has been first-hand witness to the decline of wildlife caused by environmental destruction.
“That’s why I’m taking part in this campaign, to help bring forward the voices of those witnessing the impacts of the climate and nature crisis to those in power to help them understand that they are not acting fast enough.”
The long-term target currently being proposed for nature’s recovery aims to have just ten per cent more nature in 2042 than 2030 levels – by which time the state of the natural world is expected to have declined even further.
The Wildlife Trusts have written a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressing serious concern and calling instead for a 20 per cent increase on 2022 levels.
The Wildlife Trusts made it easy for people to respond to the recent public consultation on the Environment Act targets, after people complained they found it hard to navigate.
Over 60,000 people backed The Wildlife Trust’s view that the target was far too low.
Young people would suffer most from the consequences of continued nature declines in their lives.
The youth ambassadors who handed in the petition included author, activist and The Wildlife Trusts’ ambassador, Mya-Rose Craig, and nine other youth ambassadors from different parts of the UK including the two from WWT.
The Wildlife Trusts’ letter to the Prime Minister reads as follows:
Dear Prime Minister,
Re: Environment Act targets consultation
I write on behalf of young Ambassadors from The Wildlife Trusts movement who have travelled to London from across England today to deliver the message that the UK Government should raise its ambition to restore nature.
Three years ago, the UK became the world’s first major economy to establish a national net-zero target in law, setting a global benchmark for serious climate ambition. We now have the chance to be the first country to do the same for our natural heritage and set a target to guarantee its recovery in law.
The Wildlife Trusts were delighted when you cemented your work of spearheading the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature by setting a target to halt the decline in the abundance of species by 2030. This should be the first step on the way to meeting the Government’s promise of passing on the environment in better state to the next generation.
But it cannot be enough to simply ‘halt decline’ – after we have lost so much, we need to start putting nature into recovery.
The proposed ambition of the Environment Act’s long-term species target aims to increase species abundance by 10% by 2042 compared to 2030 levels, once nature has declined even further. An increase of 10% from that low bar will almost certainly mean that wildlife populations are lower in twenty years’ time than they are today.
The wildlife we have in the UK is incredible, with species found nowhere else on Earth. But as you have acknowledged, wildlife levels have been declining for decades and are now in crisis. We believe we can do so much better than aiming for a landscape that has fewer of these iconic wildlife species in 20 years’ time than we currently enjoy.
Instead of a target to increase species abundance by 10% on 2030 levels, a target to increase abundance by 20% compared to current levels will guarantee in law the promise of passing on nature in a better state to the next generation.
Over 50,000 people have supported The Wildlife Trusts’ view that the level of ambition proposed is not adequate. They all support our call for the current level of ambition to be significantly raised.
As you rightly identified at your COP26 opening remarks last year, “the people who will judge us are the children not yet born”. Raising the bar of ambition for this target will reach beyond the term of a single Parliament to ensure that all future Governments take bolder steps to enhance and restore our natural heritage.
I look forward to receiving acknowledgement of today’s hand-in and will be pleased to meet to discuss this with yourself and Ministers, alongside our young Ambassadors, at your convenience.
Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts