New, long-term environmental targets have been announced by the government.

The proposed environmental targets are a cornerstone of the government’s Environment Act which passed into law in November last year.

They will drive action by successive governments to protect and enhance the natural world.

The proposed targets cover water, air quality and the diversity of wildlife, including:
• Improving the health of rivers by reducing nutrient pollution and contamination from abandoned metal mines in water courses and improving water use efficiency; and
• Cleaning up air through a target to reduce exposure to the most harmful air pollutant to human health – PM2.5 – by over a third compared to 2018 levels; and
• Halting the decline in wildlife populations through a legally binding target for species abundance by 2030 with a requirement to increase species populations by 10% by 2042.

Other targets include halving the waste that ends up at landfill or incineration by 2042, increasing total tree cover by 3% by 2050, and significant improvements in the condition of Marine Protected Areas by 2042.

New targets on water quality will tackle the most significant pressures on the water environment and help unlock the most serious challenges to clean up England’s rivers and support wider ambitions under the Water Framework Directive, and in the 25 Year Environment Plan for clean and plentiful water.

Targets to cut air pollutant PM2.5 will reduce exposure to the most harmful air quality across the country and in locations where levels are highest, with a 50% cut in acceptable levels.

The proposed targets will now be subject to an eight week consultation period where government will seek the views of environment groups, local authorities and stakeholders.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice said:

“These proposed targets are intended to set a clear, long-term plan for nature’s recovery. In a post EU era we now have the freedom to move towards a system that focuses on nature’s recovery as well as its preservation, and which places more emphasis on science and less emphasis on legal process.

“This change in approach will help us in the pursuit of the targets we are setting under the Environment Act.”