Govt Unveils Long-Term Environmental Targets
The government has announced new long-term environmental targets, designed to protect and enhance the natural world, including water and air quality, as well as wildlife diversity.
The proposed goals form part of the 2021 Environment Act and aim to improve river health by reducing nutrient pollution and contamination from metal mines, as well as improving water usage efficiency.
Water quality targets will address the most significant challenges being faced by the water environment and help drive cleanup of waterways around England, while supporting wider ambitions set out in the Water Framework Directive and the 25 Year Environment Plan to deliver clean and plentiful water.
Under the proposals, the government plans to halt species decline by 2020 and increase species abundance by ten per cent come 2042. More than 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside protected areas will either be created or restored by 2042.
It also plans to tackle nutrient pollution in water by reducing phosphorus loading from treated wastewater by 80 per cent by 2037. And there are steps being taken now to reduce agriculture-driven nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment levels by 40 per cent by 2037.
As for the marine environment, the proposals would see 70 per cent of designated features to be in a favourable condition by 2042, with the remaining 30 per cent in recovering condition.
Tony Juniper, chair of Natural England, said: “As nature faces ever-increasing pressures, including from the effects of climate change, it is no longer sufficient to maintain the remnants of nature that have survived, but to invest in large-scale recovery.
“Ambitious targets to halt the decline in species abundance and to increase the area of land and sea protected for nature, backed by a range of new policies to meet them, means that we are in a strong position to shift up a gear – not only protecting what’s left but also to recover some of what has been lost.”
Where nitrogen levels in water is concerned, projects are already underway to help tackle this problem head on. In Poole Harbour, for example, local farmers in the catchment area are now striving to become some of the most nitrogen efficient in the country by taking responsibility of reducing nitrogen loss from soil to prevent it from harming the environment.
A nutrient management scheme is now being developed to help them achieve their ambition. From 2023, farmers will have to make sure that nutrient loss across their farm holding doesn’t exceed 18.1kg/hectare/year nitrogen.
New resources have been provided, such as the Nitrate Leaching Tool and Agricultural Compliance Tool, which can be used to calculate the amount of nutrients being lost to the environment.
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