Constituents continue to contact me about the draft Environment Bill and I am grateful for the emails I have received on the #LetNatureSing and ‘Nature Needs You’ campaigns.
The Government is committed to being the UK's greenest ever, and has established a 25-Year Plan to Improve the Environment to help achieve this goal.
The 25 Year Environment Plan sets out the development of the Nature Recovery Network - an expanding and increasingly connected network of places for wildlife. In the long term it aims to create or restore 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside the protected site series. This network will more effectively link existing protected sites and landscapes, as well as urban green and blue infrastructure.
There are many exciting landscape-scale initiatives to build on when developing the Nature Recovery Network, including the farmer cluster, where farmers work cooperatively with organisations such as the Game and Wildlife Trust, Natural England and local community groups to create new nature networks.
The Department for the Environment is also developing an Environmental Land Management system that will help deliver the wildlife goals in the 25 Year Environment Plan. Natural England is working with landowners and conservation groups on the 'Back from the Brink' programme, which aims to save 20 species from extinction.
The Environment Bill itself also includes draft proposals for a new, world-leading system of environmental governance. It is important to remember that these draft sections form just one part of a broader Bill that will take direct action on the biggest environmental priorities of our age. It will put environmental ambition and accountability at the very heart of government and will include legislative measures to take direct action to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age: air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency, and water resource management. More detail on all policy areas will be published in due course.
The draft clauses set out how a new system of green governance will be created, establishing an Office for Environmental Protection to ensure we succeed in leaving the environment in a better condition than we found it. The draft clauses also place our 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing, and introduce a set of environmental principles that will be used to guide future government policy making.
A great deal has already been achieved by the Government:
- Carbon emissions have fallen by 42 per cent since 1990.
- Britain's share of electricity generated from renewables has doubled since 2009.
- Established 12 Nature Improvement Areas, created 150,000 acres of priority habitats and planted over 11 million trees. We are now committed to planting 11 million more.
- The National Pollinator Strategy will improve our understanding of the abundance, diversity and role of pollinators, and identify any additional actions needed to protect them.
- Fifty Marine Conservation Zones have been created to help protect our rich marine life, joining the UK's over 500 existing marine protected areas, and a further 41 have since been announced.
- A new UK Blue Belt of protected sites is now being created in British waters and around the UK's 14 Overseas Territories where there is local support and environmental need.
- Secured extra protection for precious Ancient Woodland and veteran trees - new planning rules have given ancient trees and woods the highest possible protection from development.
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. I am encouraged that action is being taken to protect wildlife sites and to restore and create wildlife-rich habitats, and that investment is being made to aid species recovery.