Stanley Johnson with his wife, Jenny (Photo by Roy Riley) Stanley Johnson with his wife, Jenny (Photo by Roy Riley)
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Stanley Johnson urges his son Boris to be greener by Ben Webster

Published in The Times 22nd February 2021


Boris Johnson's father has called on him to "practise what he preaches" on conservation by funding his environmental pledges.

The prime minister is expected today to announce continued funding to protect four million sq km of ocean from illegal fishing in UK overseas territories.

His father Stanley, an environmental campaigner and international ambassador for the Conservative Environment Network, is calling for more, including legally binding targets for protecting and restoring habitats.

He told The Times that this was essential to ensure that the UK's claim to be a global leader on conservation was taken seriously.

The prime minister has pledged to protect 30 per cent of the UK's land and sea and last month helped launch the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, an initiative to achieve that goal globally by 2030.

Stanley Johnson said the UK's role in the coalition "puts us in even more of a key position where we need to show that we are practising what we preach".

"That example isn't just the PM signing up to a leaders' declaration or making a speech . . . there's nothing more important than actually getting targets established in law," he said. "We need to be sure that we do things which are consistent with the pledges we have been making and the speeches we have been making.

"One of those things is maintaining the commitment we have made on marine protected areas in the overseas territories and doing much more on marine protected areas [around the UK]."

He noted that while about a quarter of UK home waters are designated as protected, fishing is banned in "just 0.01 per cent".

Without a clear commitment to funding, Britain "risks becoming the host of the world's largest network of 'paper parks', unprotected from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing".

He said the UK had been effective in persuading other nations to act on climate change because it had set legally binding targets to cut emissions.

"We need to have put in law in this country a target to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030 and we need to have it clearly established that the pledges the prime minister made that we would protect 30 per cent of [land and sea] should also be enshrined in law."

The long-delayed Environment Bill commits the government to set "at least one target" for biodiversity by October next year but does not make clear what that target will be.

The government is expected to confirm that it will continue funding for the "blue belt" of protected areas around overseas territories, including St Helena in the Atlantic and the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific. These seas are a haven for endangered species such as whale shark, yellow-nosed albatross, green turtle and southern bluefin tuna.

The government began funding protection of the blue belt in 2016, initially spending £5 million a year on measures such as satellite monitoring to detect illegal fishing. The funding was increased to £7 million a year last year and was due to end next month.


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