Seemingly ambitious Defra hedgerow targets actually due to typo
The UK environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, has disappointed campaigners after revealing that an ambitious hedgerow plan for England was in fact a typographical error.
Helena Horton www.theguardian.com
At the end of January, environment groups were delighted when Coffey revealed the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan would include aims to plant 30,000 miles of new hedgerows a year by 2037 and 45,000 a year by 2050.
Unlike many of the other pledges, this significantly outstripped recommendations by the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and other experts.
However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has admitted that this was in fact a typo, and that the targets are for 30,000 miles altogether by 2037, and 45,000 altogether by 2050. This is significantly less than the first draft of the plan promised and about half of what the CCC recommends, which is 40% more hedgerows by 2050.
Expanding hedgerows has been seen as a relatively easy win for tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis, as they quite easily fit into the farmed environment while having many benefits for carbon storage and wildlife. Half of England’s hedgerows are estimated to have been ripped up since the second world war for farming purposes, and campaigners have been asking for them to be put back into the landscape.
The Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson, Tim Farron, said: “Defra should invest in a proof reader. Their accidental target was significantly better than the revised one.
“Once again, the government has failed to create a meaningful plan to recover our natural environment. Their targets lack ambition and without the proper systems in place are likely to be missed entirely.”
Environment groups called for more ambitious targets. Tom Fyans, the interim CEO of the countryside charity CPRE, said: “We need to see at least double the level of ambition. The Climate Change Committee’s recommendation was for 40% more hedgerows by 2050. We estimate that means around 100,000 miles by 2050 instead of the 45,000 miles ministers have included in the Environmental Improvement Plan – so less than half of what’s needed.
“But putting the target to one side, it’s also important that the government turns its mind to delivery. This target isn’t worth the paper it’s written on without more funding and support for farmers.”
Barnaby Coupe, the land use policy manager for The Wildlife Trusts, added: “We desperately need to replant lost hedgerows, as well as improving the quality of those that exist today. Government funding and ambition should reflect the importance of hedgerows in creating wildlife corridors – and planning and planting of this vital habitat should be a key priority.”
A Defra spokesperson admitted the error and said: “Hedgerows are important ecological building blocks across our landscapes. Our new farming schemes will continue to invest in incentives for maintenance and planting of hedgerows across the country.
“We set out our ambition in the Environment Improvement Plan that through the support of government schemes 65 to 80% of landowners and farmers will adopt nature friendly farming practices on at least 10 to 15% of their land by 2030. They will also be supported to create or restore 30,000 miles of hedgerows by 2037 and 45,000 miles of hedgerows by 2050.”
I’m old enough to remember that farmers were paid to remove hedgerows so that they could grow more!
(This was on Thatcher’s watch)
I wish our politicians would take their responsibilities seriously.
Or are they deliberately harming our country?