Welcoming the Environment Bill

This week I was to delighted to speak in the landmark Environment Bill debate. The case for tackling biodiversity loss, climate change and the environmental risks to public health is clear. The accelerating impact of climate change in this country and around the world is of profound public concern, as is the damage to nature with species loss, habitat erosion and the disappearance of cherished wildlife.

The Government has already taken action to address climate change by setting a target to reach net zero emissions, leading the way amongst major economies as the first to do so.  This Environment Bill is part of the government response to the clear and scientific case, and growing public demand, for a step-change in environmental protection and recovery.

I welcome the new tools the Environment Bill provides to help manage the impact of human activity on the environment, creating a more sustainable and resilient economy, enabling nature recovery and enhancing well-being and quality of life.

The new statutory cycle of target setting, monitoring, planning and reporting will help deliver significant, long term environmental improvement and ensure government can be held to account for its actions.  CAP payments to farmers need to be replaced with more straightforward financial payments to landowners, incentivising carbon sequestration and improving water management. Focussing on these two areas will lead to healthier soils, better quality food and nature recovery.  I have seen from my visits to many farms in Cornwall that nature recovery goes hand in glove with producing more high-quality food.  Stewardship of the land undertaken by farmers can be as important as that undertaken by our much-valued Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

While Parliament has been taking world leading action on the climate and nature recovery, too few people know where to go to find out what is actually going on and what they can do to help.  This needs to change as, all too often, I see misrepresentation of the facts or even lies being spread. People are missing out on vital information that would enable them to make a positive difference.  It’s not just our air, our water and soil that’s being poisoned – it’s our politics too. The Government needs to invest in easily accessible, independent and expert information on what action is being taken across all sectors of our society to deliver our net zero and nature recovery targets – a detailed road map for each year.  Information is power and I want to enable everyone and every workplace to make informed choices and take action as well as have clear visibility about what the Government and all parts of our society is doing.

After the General Election, we need a unifying national endeavour to bring us all together, and I believe this is it.  But today, this lack of easily accessible, accurate and impartial information is poisoning debate and risks destroying the radical political consensus that currently exists that we must leave our environment in better condition than we found it.

First published in the West Briton 30/10/19