Law and policy
International agreements relates to biodiversity and nature. For example, the Convention on Biological Diversity was signed in 1992 by 150 governments and aims for biodiversity conservation. Other international environmental treaties include the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the 1979 Bern Convention of the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, the 1979 Bonn Convention on Migratory Species, the 1992 OSPAR Convention (for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic), and the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention. The UN General Assembly declared the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration from 2021-2030. In July 2021, the G7 Leaders signed the 2030 Nature Compact.
The UK is a signatory to these international agreements and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) reports on the UK's progress and activity. The UK Government has committed to protecting 30% of UK land by 2030 for biodiversity. Biodiversity and nature conservation are devolved matters and the main approach across the UK is to protect certain sites and species. The JNCC compiles a UK list of priority sites and species in each of the four countries.
Designated sites or protected areas include:
- National Nature Reserves in all four countries
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in England, Scotland and Wales, and Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) in Northern Ireland
- Marine Conservation Zones in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, and Marine Protected Areas in Scotland
- Sites designated under EU law, including Special Protected Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
- Sites designated under the Ramsar Convention
- Landscape designations: Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, and National Scenic Areas (NSAs) in Scotland; and National Parks in England, Scotland and Wales.
These designations often overlap. The JNCC compiles a list of protected areas across the UK.
The four governments have environment strategies, which are focused on biodiversity and nature protection. The UK Government introduced its first 'environmental improvement plan' for England, 'A green future: our 25-year plan for the environment' in 2018. The 'Northern Ireland Environment strategy' was approved in 2022. The 'Natural resource policy' for Wales aims for 'sustainable management of natural resources' and 'ecosystem resilience.' The Scottish Government introduced the 'Environment Strategy for Scotland' in 2020.