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Environment Act 2021: Final Environmental Targets

Volume 725: debated on Monday 19 December 2022

I am repeating the statement made by my noble Friend the Minister for Biosecurity, Marine and Rural Affairs, Lord Benyon, on Friday 16 December.

Final Environmental Targets under the Environment Act 2021

This Government are committed to leaving the environment in a better state than we found it. Following our consultation earlier in the year, we are confirming an ambitious suite of targets to deliver on that commitment.

These targets will tackle some of the biggest pressures facing our environment. They will ensure progress on clean air, clean and plentiful water, less waste and more sustainable use of our resources, a step change in tree planting, a better marine environment, and a more diverse, resilient natural environment.

The 13 targets that will be laid through statutory instruments are as follows:

Biodiversity on land

To halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.

To ensure that species abundance in 2042 is greater than in 2022, and at least 10% greater than 2030.

Improve the red list index for England for species extinction risk by 2042, compared to 2022 levels.

To restore or create in excess of 500,000 hectares of a range of wildlife-rich habitat outside protected sites by 2042, compared to 2022 levels.

Biodiversity in the sea

70% of the designated features in the marine protected area network to be in favourable condition by 2042, with the remainder in recovering condition.

Water quality and availability

Abandoned metal mines target: halve the length of rivers polluted by harmful metals from abandoned mines by 2038, against a baseline of around 1,500 km.

Agriculture target: reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution from agriculture into the water environment by at least 40% by 2038, compared to a 2018 baseline.

Wastewater target: reduce phosphorus loadings from treated wastewater by 80% by 2038 against a 2020 baseline.

Water demand target: reduce the use of public water supply in England per head of population by 20% from the 2019-20 baseline reporting year figures, by 2037-38.

Woodland cover

Increase total tree and woodland cover from 14.5% of land area now to 16.5% by 2050.

Resource efficiency and waste reduction

Reduce residual waste—excluding major mineral wastes—kilograms per capita by 50% by 2042 from 2019 levels.

Air quality

An annual mean concentration target for PM2.5 levels in England to be 10 µg m-3 or below by 2040.

A population exposure reduction target for a reduction in PM2.5 population exposure of 35% compared to 2018 to be achieved by 2040.

The suite of targets that we consulted on was the result of significant scientific evidence collection and development over preceding years that included input from evidence partners and independent experts, supported by over 800 pages of published evidence. We have full confidence in the final suite of targets, which represents the robust analysis already undertaken.

These targets are stretching and will be challenging for us to meet, whether that is through Government, through business or indeed at home in our individual lives through choices we make. In turn this will support action to tackle climate change, restore our natural capital and protect our much-loved landscapes and green spaces.

We will set out more details about our plans to deliver them in our environmental improvement plan: our manifesto for the environment for the next five years. We will publish this by 31 January, as required by law.

The Government response to the consultation will be published on