Environment Act targets set

The long awaited Environment Act targets have finally been set out by Government.

When the Act was passed it included a legal commitment to set the targets by the 31st of Oct 2022.  But on 28th Oct 2022 it was announced that there would be a delay in setting the targets.  The Wildlife Trusts and other nature charities wrote to Government about the missed targets to begin the complaints process to the Office of Environmental Protection who can investigate such matters.

On the 16th December 2022 Government finally announced the new targets had been set out. Further details can be found in a written statement by Lord Benyon.


What are the targets?

The thirteen targets that will be enshrined in to UK law 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 MPA 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 (N), phosphorus (P) 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) kg 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.

Many have called the new targets weak and unambitious.

Many of these are of course very relevant to the proposed LTC

With a project as hugely destructive and harmful as the proposed LTC it is quite apparent that many of these targets will be relevant.  In particular we have previously commented on the air quality targets, as we know that the whole proposed LTC would fail against a PM2.5 target of 10 µg m-3.  Biodiversity and woodland targets are also of course very relevant.


How will the targets be reached?

What will be really interesting is how Government propose to meet these new legally binding targets.  Clearly projects like the proposed LTC would fail against them.

Government will set out more details about their plans to deliver them in their ‘Environmental Improvement Plan: our manifesto for the environment for the next 5 years’, which legally should be published by 31 January 2023.  Watch this space!


Additional air quality news

Ella’s Law has been passed in the House of Lords and now passes to the Commons to be scrutinized by MPs.  This law is named after Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah the 9 year old girl who was the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as their cause of death.

The Bill was approved, on the 2nd of December 2022, after a lot of work by Baroness Jenny Jones, and if approved by MPs will see the human right to clean air enshrined into UK law.  It would require public bodies to review and monitor pollution limits, with the aim of achieving clean air within five years.


Also, Client Earth are calling for people to use their quick and easy form to send an email to your MP asking them to attend a parliamentary event they are holding on 11th Jan 2023 to raise their understanding of how dangerous road transport pollution can be for human health.

Send your MP an email now



Edie – ‘Weak and unambitious’: Green groups criticise Defra’s legally binding environment targets (Dec 2022) – click here

ITV – ‘Ella’s Law’ clean air Bill passes in the Lords and heads to the Commonsclick here