IEMA responds to OEP consultation on government’s species abundance targets

26th September 2023

In May, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) called for evidence on nature recovery, specifically considering species abundance.

The OEP was set up in 2021 to ‘protect and improve the environment’ by holding the government and other bodies – such as government departments, ministers, regulators, local authorities, and some private bodies such as water companies – to account.

The call for evidence is related to species abundance targets within the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP). Its aim was to help the OEP understand whether the government’s plans and delivery methods will achieve the species abundance targets, and any major barriers, enablers, synergies and trade-offs. The consultation included type, scale and pace of interventions, across terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments.

IEMA held a workshop with members and other expert stakeholders to create a robust response to the consultation and recommended the government should:

l Make clear what species are being measured in its targets in the EIP and how they will be measured and monitored to support key stakeholders in taking action. 

l Undertake research to better understand how habitat creation will improve species abundance, and create a sufficient evidence base for nature recovery.

l Make the targets in the EIP on marine more focused and put in place processes for monitoring and measuring.

l Mandate Biodiversity Action Plans and provide resources for them to be implemented.

l Communicate timetables for the launch of regulations and provide timely guidance on regulation and policy, including case studies. 

l Ensure that nature and its associated ecosystem services are embedded in meeting the demand for housing and climate actions, particularly through the use of nature-based solutions. 

l Provide appropriate funding and resources to support the ambition in the EIP to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030. This includes resources for local authorities to implement local change, for record centres, to upskill stakeholders, and resources to allow the Environment Agency to act on nature degradation caused by landowners. 

l Ensure that risk identified through natural capital assessment and uncertainty is transparently recognised and managed.

Other insights that emerged from the workshop included a perceived lack of data for baselining, the need to improve the management of protected sites (see also our response to the OEP consultation on protected sites in 2023) and the need to consider the Lawson principle of being more joined up, ensuring ‘stepping stone’ habitats and connections with local wildlife sites.

For further details of the government consultation and the response, visit

Image credit: Shutterstock


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