The latest progress report on the 25-Year Environment Plan has just been released by the UK Government and has revealed that progress has gone backwards in many areas. These areas include the litter and waste in the North Sea, water consumption, and the abundance of ‘priority’ species.

The Plan, which was launched under Theresa May’s Government in 2018, aims to improve the state of nature in the UK for the next generation. This report by DEFRA is the fourth annual progress report relating to the updates of 50 topics including air, water, waste, biodiversity, and soil.

In May 2022, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) noted that the Government is off track to deliver the Plan’s vision, warning that efforts had not been ‘purposeful or coherent’ allowing nature in the UK to be in ‘persistent decline’.

According to DEFRA’s latest report, wild birds in woodlands and seal populations have declined along with wild salmon populations, which have declined by more than 55% since 2014 – 2019. 

Important animal and plant species in England are now down 17.2% against a 2013 baseline and the distribution of these species has also fallen by 9.3% since 2011.

The 25-Year Environment Plan laid out measures to reduce water consumption, litter in the North Sea and natural raw material consumption. The DEFRA report reveals regression in these areas.

When assessing raw material consumption (excluding fossil fuels), DEFRA has noted a 10.3% increase on a per-capita basis since 2012.

Regarding water consumption, a 3.7% increase on a per-capita basis was recorded between the 2015-16 financial year and 2020-21 financial year.

The most shocking part of the report revealed that in 2014, 73.7% more items of litter were found per 100 metres of beach along the greater North Sea than in 2009.

There was little or no change in recycling rates, nor the amount of waste collectively produced by homes in England and fly tipping has increased.

There is some good news however, as improvements were noted against 29 indicators of the 50 listed.

The report stated that the general public do seem to be more engaged with nature, with a 13.9% increase in visits to green and natural spaces by those in England being recorded between 2013 and 2018.

Other improvements include a better quality of bathing water in England, reduced particulate matter from road transport and higher numbers of bats.