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For a 'Just Transition,' we have to focus on our planetary boundaries

Last week, the UK Government announced it would be 'watering' down its water pollution goals.

In @The Guardian, river campaign groups declared it an "attack on nature". Eutrophication is a problem, as is the utility companies discharging sewerage into the waterways.

This decision seems to be at odds with their latest pledge at #COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal to support developing countries in delivering the 30x30 target.

Though critics called the £29m pledge 'peanuts', the 30x 30 target is a

negotiating priority for the UK at the UN summit. 30x30 is a target to protect 30% of land and the ocean by 2030.

Jumping back to the UK, the backtracking on releasing the legally binding targets mandated by the 2021 Environment Act (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had until October 2022 to set ambitious goals on air and water pollution as well as biodiversity.) seems to be a continuum of an unfortunate state of affairs where the earth's planetary boundaries aren't being respected. Cue the mind-blowing decision to open a coal mine in West Cumbria instead of supporting the region to develop green energy and associated skills.

As farmer's daughters, we know first-hand how much smallholders and family farmers, globally, respect the land they farm; the same can not always be said for those involved in industrial farming practices.

A large percentage of water pollution is caused by the need to expand and intensify operations to deal with our nation's ever-increasing demand for food. Fertilisers, for example, provide essential nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to the soil in which grass, vegetables and ornamental flowers grow. Fertiliser nutrients left unused in the soil can run off into coastal waters, lakes and streams, resulting in eutrophication. This can occur naturally; however, the effects of human-caused eutrophication have severe (unintended) environmental consequences, such as algae blooms which disrupt normal ecosystem functioning, damaging the food system we rely on to feed us with healthy, nutritious food.

Our food systems are broken. For change to be realised, governments and the food sector worldwide must hold inclusive conversations that adopt a whole systems approach towards the issue of food security, exacerbated by water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.

Using this holistic approach, the UK government and others can focus on innovative, socio-ecological policies that strengthen local communities - allowing them to develop the tools required for scalable solutions that drive environmental change.

Today (Friday16th Dec) the environment secretary is preparing to announce targets around biodiversity and air pollution. Will they also follow the fate of the rivers?

Additional information:

Edit- for the latest updates announced Friday 16th December, on the Environment Act 2021 click here.

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