Environmental Targets: Marine

As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UK failed to reach its target of restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems by 2020. It was adopted by the UK as part of target 2 of the EU’s biodiversity strategy, and the lack of progress is most pronounced in the marine and costal environment, where habitat degradation continues and restoration remains in its relative infancy. I believe that nobody in the Government understands the ocean, it is crucial to our well-being, and these new Government targets related to the Environment Act 2021 are utterly insufficient.

Reading these targets, I believe that nobody in the Government understands the ocean. It is crucial to our well-being, and these targets are utterly insufficient. The report published last year by the APPG on the Ocean, which I recommend to the Minister and his colleagues, gave excellent advice. The chair of the APPG is a Conservative. It is a good report with masses of recommendations that the Government could take. I hope that the Minister has perhaps already read it and that his team have absorbed it—that would be wonderful—but, looking at these targets, I rather think they have not.

If this Government are going to refuse to stop or even slow down our use of fossil fuels, the ocean and the marine protected areas are crucial because, as we all know, they are a carbon sink that we cannot do without. It is always fine to talk about techno fixes, but let us face it: they do not yet exist. They are wonderful, and it will be great when they happen, but they are, at the moment, science fiction. All marine ecosystems are valuable. For example, seagrass is a wonderful gobbler-up of carbon, but we have depleted our areas of seagrass because of pollution and all sorts of other factors. However, our Link briefing points out that there is no central driver towards such marine habitats and there is insufficient monitoring. This goes against the joint fisheries statement and the marine spatial prioritisation programme, both of which talk about protecting and restoring habitats that store blue carbon. They include seagrasses, mangroves, salt marshes and even algae and macroalgae.

I thank Claire Evans of the National Oceanography Centre, who helpfully pointed out that there is a legislative target that is not being met. As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UK failed to reach its target of restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems by 2020. It was adopted by the UK as part of target 2 of the EU’s biodiversity strategy, and the lack of progress is most pronounced in the marine and costal environment, where habitat degradation continues and restoration remains in its relative infancy. I recommend that the Government not only look at this report from the APPG for the Ocean but talk to the scientists, because they can probably direct the Government in the best way to do exactly what the Government say they want to do.

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