Over the past week, I have received a number of emails from constituents regarding "protecting UK nature and Biodiversity". Please read my response below.
Biodiversity loss is a global problem that needs a global solution, and the UK is committed to playing a leading role in developing an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework to be adopted at COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity. This includes targets to ensure at least 30 per cent of the global land and of the ocean is protected, ecosystems are restored, species population sizes are recovering, and extinctions are halted by 2050.
Domestically, the Environment Act 2021 sets a new, historic legally binding target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030. This is a core part of Ministers’ commitment to leave the environment in a better state than we found it and is supported by the powerful package of new policies and tools in the Act. Biodiversity net gain, Local Nature Recovery Strategies and a strengthened biodiversity duty on public authorities will work together to drive action, to create or restore rich habitats that enable wildlife to recover and thrive, while conservation covenants will help secure habitat for the long term.
Furthermore, the Government is investing over £750 million in the Nature for Climate Fund and is expanding on the 364,000 football pitches of priority habitat which has been created or restored since 2010 through the establishment of the Nature Recovery Network. This is all part of the programme of work to deliver our international commitments domestically under the 25 Year Environment Plan.
Investment Zones are to drive growth and unlock housing across the UK by lowering taxes and liberalising planning frameworks to encourage rapid development and business investment.
All Investment Zone agreements will contain tax and development sites. Areas will be responsible for putting forward sites and demonstrating their potential impact on economic growth, including by bringing more land forward and accelerating development. Investment Zones will only be chosen following a rapid Expression of Interest process open to everyone, and after local consent is confirmed.
We have experienced pervasive delays to delivery of infrastructure over recent years that undermine investor confidence and restrict the growth potential of the government’s landmark public investment in high quality infrastructure. Our planning system is too slow and too fragmented, with these delays partly a result of a complex patchwork of environmental and regulatory rules, some of which are retained EU law. For example, an offshore wind farm can take four years to get through the planning process and no new substantive onshore wind farm has received planning consent since 2015. On some metrics, the system has also been deteriorating in recent years: the timespan for granting Development Consent Orders (DCOs) increased by 65% between 2012 and 2021.
The government is, therefore, reforming and streamline these arrangements to promote growth whilst ensuring environmental outcomes are protected: onshore wind planning policy is being brought in line with other infrastructure to allow it to be deployed more easily in England; this is an element of the proposals that cause me some concern and which I shall be monitoring closely.
ENVIRONMENT LAND MANAGEMENT SCHEME:
Farmers do essential work in producing high quality food for consumption at home and for export. The UK is now free from the Common Agricultural Policy, which did little to deliver for farmers, farming or the environment leaving agricultural productivity weak - this needs to change to support the rural economy. The government will rapidly review frameworks for regulation, innovation, and investment that impact farmers and land managers in England, such as targeting requirements that “create paperwork and stall development but do not necessarily protect the environment”. This will ensure government and industry are working together to strengthen UK food security, and maximise the long-term productivity, resilience, competitiveness, and environmental stewardship of the British countryside. The government will set out plans later this autumn.
Andrew Lewer MBE MP