30 by 30: Land for Nature’s Recovery

The Institute is pleased to support this paper from Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) to the UK Government on the new commitments to manage 30% of land for nature.

The introduction to the paper is below and the full document can be downloaded at the end.


30 by 30: Land for Nature’s Recoverypage1image1704

We welcome the UK Government’s commitment to manage 30% of land for nature. This is a significant opportunity to protect the last remnants of natural and semi-natural habitat in England, and restore degraded ecosystems that are most important for wildlife, people or our response to climate change.

Getting this right is critical for the survival and recovery of many species that have been in decline for decades. Showing that it can be done in a way that supports a nature-positive economy would be a powerful contribution to global diplomacy, as the UN considers adopting targets to protect 30% of the land and sea by 2030 at the Convention on Biological Diversity next year.

To date, however, the Government has seriously underestimated the effort required to deliver 30% effectively. The Government has suggested that 26% of land in England is already protected for nature. However, the majority of this area is not specifically designated for nature’s protection. Evenwhere there are environmental designations in place, this includes many poorly-managed sites that are not in a good condition for nature and have not been monitored for years. A meaningful 30% commitment cannot simply be fulfilled by designating a new National Park.

The true area that is currently protected and well-managed for nature in England is much lower. Just 8% of land is statutorily designated specifically for nature’s protection, of which less than 40% is in favourable condition. In other words, only 3% of land could reliably be said to be specifically protected for nature, rather than the 26% suggested by Government.

Nevertheless, with targeted reform of existing designations and a programme of identifying and protecting new sites, the 30% target in England is achievable by 2030. Success will require:

  • Completing the network of nature’s finest sites: an ambitious expansion and evolution of existing environmental designations, completing the network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and the national site network to safeguard and restore the last fragments of precious habitats, many of which have all but disappeared such as wildflower meadows, ancient woodlands, biodiversity-rich brownfields, and wetlands;
  • Adaptation of existing landscape designations: such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to ensure that they play a more meaningful role in nature’srecovery; and
  • Other designations for nature’s recovery: A combination of other effective land management measures that can provide lasting protection from harm (such as pollutionand development) and support for nature’s recovery, including a spectrum of more interventionist management choices (underpinned by mechanisms such as agri- environment programmes) and less intensively managed options (such as rewilding).In this briefing, we set out the conditions the Government should meet to count land as protected under its 30% target. If these are met—in combination with more sustainable management across the whole country—this could provide the foundation for recovery of habitats and species and a nature-positive economy for everyone.