I firmly believe in protecting both the UK's vibrant ecosystem and the natural environment worldwide. Ministers will introduce the first Environment Bill in over 20 years, establishing a world-leading body to hold government to account.
In addition, the Government is committed to being the UK's greenest ever and you may be aware that it has established a 25-Year Plan to Improve the Environment to help achieve this goal (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/25-year-environment-plan/25-year-environment-plan-our-targets-at-a-glance)
We have a great track record on the environment to be proud of. For example, the Government has already:
- Planted more than 11 million trees, including one million trees in our towns and cities. England’s woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that hasn’t been seen since the fourteenth century.
- Cleaned up 10,000 miles of rivers and waterways – more than the length of the Amazon and the Nile combined.
- Published the National Ecosystem Assessment, the Natural Environment White Paper and the Biodiversity Strategy, setting out the Government’s plans for protecting ecosystems, wildlife and natural habitats. £7.5 million has been provided to establish 12 Nature Improvement Areas, providing space for wildlife to thrive, plus a further 148,000 acres of priority habitats.
- Committed up to £720 million to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change and transition to a low carbon economy.
- Published the UK’s first Solar Strategy which sets out the ambition to see solar rolled out more widely across the country. Since 2010, half a million homes have chosen to install solar technology.
- Invested in renewables. Since 2010, the amount of money invested each year in renewable electricity production has doubled compared with the previous Parliament. As a result, 2017 was the cleanest and greenest year ever for electricity when we had the first full day without coal power since the Industrial Revolution. The rise of renewable energy also helped to break 13 clean energy records in 2017.
- Introduced the 5p charge for plastic bags which has drastically reduced the number of plastic bags distributed. Our 5p plastic bag has seen nine billion fewer carrier bags being distributed since the charge was introduced. This has led to a reduction of 83 per cent and £95 million has been donated to environmental, educational, and other good causes.
- Legislated to ban microbeads. A ban on the manufacture and sale of products containing microbeads came into force earlier this year. We have asked a specialist committee to review evidence on the use of microplastics in a range of products, and their chances of reaching the seas, and we are commissioning further research to better understand the impact of microplastics in the marine environment. Ministers are also consulting on plans to ban the sale of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. This, alongside the forthcoming consultation on a deposit return scheme for single use drinks containers, should lessen the potential for material to become microplastic in the long term.
- Reduced carbon emissions by 6 percent since 2010 contributing to a 27 per cent reduction since 1990. Ministers are determined to ensure we become a world leader in the new green economy.
Furthermore, the recent publication of the Agriculture Bill sets out how farmers and land managers will in future be paid for "public goods", such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding.
Included in the Bill is the new environmental land management system which will bring in a new era for farming, providing an income stream for farmers and land managers who protect and preserve our natural environment. For the first time, farmers and land managers will be able to decide for themselves how they can deliver environmental benefits from their businesses and their land, and how they integrate this into their food, timber and other commercial activities. The Bill will allow us to reward farmers who protect our environment, leaving the countryside in a cleaner, greener and healthier state for future generations. I have attached for you a letter from the Environment Secretary which provides more details.
The decision to leave the European Union has created an historic opportunity to review our environmental policies. Outside the EU we can develop global gold standard environmental policies, not just to halt or slow environmental deterioration, but to raise our ambitions, restoring nature and reversing decline. We can, and I believe we will, be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.