Above: This young white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) is a beneficiary of one of the few success stories of the past decade, though the species’ reintroduction into Scotland has been controversial

 

THE UK IS set to miss three quarters of its 10-year biodiversity targets next year, a Joint Nature Conservation Committee reveals.

Of 20 targets set in 2010 in Aichi, Japan, by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Britain is on course to meet only five. Target 2, on local and national government monitoring, is one of them, but what was monitored makes woeful reading, with farmland and other birds figuring among ‘‘widespread and significant ongoing declines across many species’’. The interdependence of species in the natural world make the decline of insects, particularly rare butterflies and pollinating insects, grim reading for bird-lovers too.

‘‘Ongoing losses of natural and semi-natural habitat, for example through neglect or development,’’ are noted, missing by miles the target of cutting the rate of loss to ‘‘close to zero’’. On the other hand, some bright spots are recorded, with previously fragmented habitats now rejoined through restoration.

The report finds that, far from following the Aichi guidance that funding should ‘‘increase substantially’’, Government spending on biodiversity has fallen, while subsidies for activities that actively harm nature continue.

The number one target at Aichi – that by 2020 the general public becomes aware of the values of biodiversity and how to conserve nature – shows virtually no improvement since 2009, with more than half the UK public reporting no awareness of the issues. Few curriculum-level schemes have been introduced in schools, either, to give younger generations an appreciation of the natural world they will inherit.

“The loss of biodiversity is a silent killer,” CBD executive secretary Cristiana Pasca Palmer  told The Guardian last November. “It’s different from climate change, where people feel the impact in everyday life. With biodiversity, it is not so clear but by the time you feel what is happening, it may be too late.”

She said all peoples need to pressurise their governments to draw up ambitious new targets to protect the insects, birds, plants and mammals vital for food production, clean water and carbon sequestration.

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