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02 November 2016

Parliamentary concern about biodiversity loss should strengthen government plan to protect nature

WWF-today welcomed a Commons debate on how to save species and habitats across the globe, and reiterated calls for the government to ensure that environmental protection is strengthened following the UK’s departure from the EU. 

The debate was called by former Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman after WWF’s Living Planet Report revealed that global populations of vertebrate species are on course to fall by a shocking 67 per cent on 1970 levels by the end of this decade – and have already fallen by 58 per cent.  Earlier research by RSPB showed that over half of UK species, including hedgehogs, kingfishers and many species of butterflies, have declined in recent decades.

MPs who spoke in the debate included Labour’s Kerry McCarthy and Angela Smith, and the SNP’s Calum Kerr.  They called on Ministers to use the promised ‘25-year Plan for the Environment’ - expected for publication in draft form this year - to set out how they will work to reduce the UK’s international footprint, as well as protecting nature at home.

...genuine threat to global social and economic stability

Mrs Spelman said:

“The evidence in the Living Planet Report is irrefutable. Such significant decline in the global wildlife population is not only unsustainable, but it poses a genuine threat to global social and economic stability.

“What the UK needs now is a comprehensive 25-year strategy to ensure that we can not only meet our international obligations to build a resilient global ecology and sustain precious biodiversity; as set out in the Nagoya Protocols, but also work closely with less economically developed countries to assist them as they strive to tackle the encroaching threats of climate change, habitat loss and degradation the exploitation of natural resources, pollution, and animal diseases.

“This will be particularly critical as the government looks to invest in major infrastructure projects, such as the expansion of Heathrow airport, and develop new international trading relationships post-Brexit”

The UK has an opportunity now to establish itself as a global leader...

Ben Stafford, Head of Public Affairs at WWF-UK said:

“Nature’s decline threatens us all, and the government has a responsibility to act. As they make their plans to leave the EU, Ministers should now make an unequivocal commitment that the standards that protect our wildlife and wild places will remain in place and be strengthened. We are disappointed that no Minister will be attending the next CoP and we urge them to reconsider their decision.

“By signing up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the UK has committed to using its power to help create a create a safer, fairer world – including by managing forests sustainably, acting on climate change, reversing land degradation and conserving oceans, seas and marine resources.  The UK has an opportunity now to establish itself as a global leader in tackling environmental degradation and the catastrophic loss of wildlife across the world.”

The Living Planet Report 2016 is the world’s most comprehensive survey to date of the health of our planet. It highlights how human activities including deforestation, pollution, overfishing and the illegal wildlife trade, coupled with climate change, are pushing species populations to the edge as people overpower the planet and the earth enters a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene.

Populations that have been impacted by human activity include those of African elephants in Tanzania, maned wolves in Brazil, hellbender salamanders in the USA, leatherback turtles in the tropical Atlantic, orcas in European waters and European eels in UK rivers.


Notes to editors

WWF is calling on the public to show governments across the UK that they want ambitious action to protect the environment at home and overseas. To sign up and find out more visit: #ForOurPlanet

Film and photographic resources for journalists, including images of the species cited above, are at: Please send queries on images to

Living Planet Report 2016: Risk and resilience in a new era is the eleventh edition of WWF's biennial flagship publication. The report tracks over 14,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2012 through the Living Planet Index – a database maintained by the Zoological Society of London. Download the report and summary at:

For more information, please contact:
Alex Stafford



Tel: 01483 412332

About WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

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