Policy

Protecting biodiversity and ecosystems at home and abroad

Issue

Our planet and its ecosystems supply us with all the natural resources we need to survive - essentials like clean air, water, food and fuel. Contact with nature is good for our physical and mental health.

Biodiversity - the variety of life on earth - is declining, with up to a third of all animals threatened with extinction. Climate change is contributing to this decline, causing the diversity of life to be lost at a faster rate than ever before. A 1ºC rise in global temperatures threatens the survival of 10% of these species.

In England, much of our biodiversity, including many of our birds, butterflies and plants, is declining. Our wildlife areas are too disjointed and fragmented, which makes it harder for wildlife to flourish and respond to climate change and other pressures, like pollution.

All countries need to act to improve biodiversity and preserve natural ecosystems. Otherwise the natural environment, wildlife and human life as we know it are all at risk.

Actions

Protecting and managing wildlife and areas of land

We’re meeting our national and international obligations to protect wildlife by:

We’re also improving the way we implement the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives - the EU laws that protect certain animal and bird species and the places in which they live.

Improving biodiversity in England

To stop biodiversity loss in England, we’re implementing Biodiversity 2020, our strategy for stopping the loss of biodiversity in England.

Protecting biodiversity abroad and in the Overseas Territories

We help other countries preserve their biodiversity by:

Valuing the benefits we get from nature

We set out our goals for the natural environment in the UK in the Natural Environment White Paper (2011). We’re now carrying out our plans to achieve those goals. We publish regular updates on our progress.

As part of this, we are working to help government and other organisations to take better account of the benefits we get from nature.

We’ve set up 48 Local Nature Partnerships across the country to help this work.

Background

We’ve produced Biodiversity 2020, our strategy for biodiversity in England. This describes how we’ll stop the decline of biodiversity in England, in line with our global and EU commitments. It takes into account ‘Making space for nature’ (2010), a major review of England’s wildlife sites and ecological networks.

We also published the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, a comprehensive study of the benefits nature provides to our society and economy, in 2011.

Who we’ve consulted

In 2010, we consulted on the development of the natural environment white paper. There were over 15,000 responses. This consultation helped us to develop the Biodiversity 2020 strategy.

Bills and legislation

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 requires all public bodies to consider biodiversity conservation when carrying out their functions.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out planning policies which local planning authorities should have regard to on biodiversity matters.

Some habitats and species are protected under the Habitats Directive through the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 in England; the Birds Directive, through the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

The EU Wildlife Trade Regulations relate to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The UK Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations (COTES) creates offences in relation to the EU regulations.

Who we’re working with

We rely on all sorts of organisations to help us conserve biodiversity and ecosystems. These range from nature conservation charities to farmers and other land managers, even individuals managing their gardens in a wildlife-friendly way.

Nature conservation charities such as the RSPB, National Trust and The Wildlife Trusts play an important role in helping wildlife and getting people involved in taking action for wildlife.

We work with Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission to improve habitats so that wildlife can thrive.

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew provide us with scientific advice on international biodiversity issues. Wildlife conservation NGOs share their expertise and views with us.

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