A group of around 20 scientists have began a protest ahead of COP15 outside the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) offices in Marsham Street, London.

The protestors are taking action as they believe the government has failed to take the required steps to protect nature.

The scientists who took part in the action included leading experts in ecology and conservation science who have previously worked for or advised Defra. 

COP15, the UN Biodiversity conference, takes place in Montréal in December and will set the global biodiversity targets, and the direction for UK nature recovery, to 2030 and beyond.

One of the protestors, Prof. Jeff Waage OBE, an ecologist and former member of Defra’s Science Advisory Committee, said:

“Ours is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. The Government has made commitments to address this dire situation, based on excellent scientific advice, but it is failing profoundly to deliver on these.

“Further, it is misleading the public, claiming for instance that it is close to its target of protecting 30% of England for nature by 2030, when the true level is currently about 5%.

“Adding to this its recent failure to meet legal deadlines to set targets for clean water and nature recovery, it is clear to me that this government is not taking its commitments seriously.

“Critical nature recovery in the UK is being actively delayed, avoided and undermined.

“Habitat- and species-loss looms large, and nature-loving citizens need to hear the truth. That is why I am here today.”

COP15 protest

Dr. Laura Thomas-Walters, a conservation social scientist, said: “I left my job as a senior analyst at Defra this year because I felt I had no opportunity to make real change.

“I worked with wonderful colleagues, smart scientists, but we were stymied by a lack of ministerial support.

“Civil servants are there to serve at the discretion of their ministers, and without buy-in from the government we couldn’t work on vital issues.

“Biodiversity loss is just as big a threat as climate breakdown – we are racing at breakneck speed into an environmental catastrophe, and the ministers are the ones cutting the brakes.

“I left government so I could speak up, to finally demand the change we need.“