Boris Johnson pledges to protect 30% of UK's countryside by 2030
28 September 2020, 05:08 | Updated: 28 September 2020, 07:30
An additional stretch of land the size of the Lake District and South Downs combined will get protected status by 2030 under new government plans to support the recovery of nature.
Currently 26% of land in England has designated national park, area of outstanding natural beauty or similar protected status.
The prime minister will today pledge to protect a further 400,000 hectares - 4% of total land in England - over the next decade in the hope of reversing biodiversity loss.
Boris Johnson will tell a virtual United Nations event on Monday that the UK "must act now" to stop animal and plant species from becoming extinct.
He will say in a speech: "We must turn these words into action and use them to build momentum, to agree ambitious goals and binding targets.
"We must act now, right now. We cannot afford to dither and delay because biodiversity loss is happening today and it is happening at a frightening rate.
"Left unchecked, the consequences will be catastrophic for us all. Extinction is forever - so our action must be immediate."
Other commitments will include a green coronavirus recovery, delivering ambitious biodiversity targets and increasing financing to boost nature.
Although environment is a devolved issue, the PM says he will work with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to extend the land protection promise across the whole of the UK.
Environmental groups have welcomed the pledge, but say more needs to be done on existing protected sites.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said it was a "good start" but more action was needed on the ground.
"This means rescuing the wildlife sites currently in decline, while also making more space for nature through a new wildlife designation called Wild Belt, specifically aimed at putting nature in recovery, protecting and connecting nature right across the country," he said.
Martin Harper, the RSPB's director of global conservation, said the 30% commitment, if done right, would be a "huge step towards addressing the crisis our wildlife is facing".
"However, targets on paper won't be enough. Those set a decade ago failed because they weren't backed up by action.
"This is why the promise must now be put into domestic law, as part of a suite of goals to restore the abundance and diversity of our wildlife, in every country in the UK," he added.
(c) Sky News 2020: Boris Johnson pledges to protect 30% of UK's countryside by 2030