MPs call on Johnson to lead on protecting nature ahead of biodiversity summit

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MPs have called on the Prime Minister to lead efforts to halt the loss of nature ahead of a major biodiversity summit in December.

The cross-party group, including two former environment secretaries, said in an open letter to Boris Johnson on Tuesday: “We simply cannot afford to waste any more time.”

Their letter comes after the UN announced it would move its Cop15 summit on biodiversity from Kunming, China, to Montreal, Canada.

Conservative Party Conference
Former environment secretary Theresa Villiers is among the group of MPs calling on the Prime Minister to attend Cop15 personally (Danny Lawson/PA)

The event had originally been scheduled to take place in 2020 but had to be rearranged due to China’s ongoing Covid restrictions.

In the two years of delays, the MPs warned, nature had “continued its perilous decline globally” with one in five species now at risk of extinction.

The group of MPs, including former environment secretaries Theresa Villiers and Hilary Benn and Commons Environmental Audit Committee chair Philip Dunne, called on Mr Johnson to attend the Montreal summit personally.

They said: “This would demonstrate the UK’s commitment to global leadership on one of the foremost issues of our time.

“It would send a powerful signal about the importance the UK places on halting and reversing nature loss, the need to foster international consensus, and the need for there to be no further delays to the process.”

They also called on the Prime Minister to champion the goal of halting and reversing the loss of nature by 2030, mobilise more finance for biodiversity, ensure cross-government support for meeting biodiversity targets and take action at home to demonstrate leadership.

Another of the group, former energy minister and chair of the all-party environment group Chris Skidmore, said: “Cop15 must mark a moment for creating a nature-positive world like what the Paris Agreement achieved for net zero.

“MPs from all parties, and their constituents, want to protect and restore the natural environment. The United Kingdom must do all it can to ensure Cop15 is seen as a globally important moment for nature and show leadership on this issue, including by participating in the summit at the highest levels.”

Other signatories to the letter include Labour MPs Kerry McCarthy and Barry Gardiner, Green MP Caroline Lucas and peers Baroness Hayman and Baroness Parminter, who chairs the Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee.

Following the announcement that Cop15 would take place in Montreal, the Government said it would seek to lead “ambitious” calls to protect nature.

Cabinet meeting
Environment minister Zac Goldsmith said nature was ‘in crisis’ (Aaron Chown/PA)

Environment minister Lord Goldsmith said: “Nature is in crisis. We need an ambitious set of targets to halt and reverse biodiversity loss globally by 2030, and I am delighted to hear the news Cop15 will go ahead later this year.

“Nature recovery is one of the greatest challenges we face as a global community. We must reverse deforestation, protect our landscapes and seas and give them and the species they hold a chance to recover.

“We welcome Canada’s announcement and offer to host, and will do everything we can to help them make it a success.

“And we will continue to support the Chinese presidency to ensure ambitious outcomes are achieved.”

The UK has previously committed to spend at least £3 billion of its £11.6 billion International Climate Finance pledge on protecting and restoring nature.

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