The LI policy team provides a run down of the biggest policy developments in landscape: the launch of a new consultation England Tree Strategy; the Natural Capital Committee’s State of Natural Capital Report 2020; and the latest 25-year environment plan review
Consultation launched on the England Tree Strategy
The UK Government is consulting on plans to update its policy for trees, woodland and forestry through the creation of a new England Tree Strategy. The strategy aims to accelerate tree planting and improve the management of existing trees and woodlands.
Subject to consultation, the new strategy will set out policies to expand tree cover, support woodland management and increase public engagement with trees and woodlands. It will help ensure the delivery of government’s commitment to increase tree planting across the UK by 2025 to 30,000 hectares per year, working closely with devolved administrations, communities and landowners to do so.
The LI will be engaging with members to help formulate our response. The government is seeking views on:
- how to expand, protect and improve our public and private trees and woodlands
- the increased role that trees and woodlands can play in supporting the economy
- how best to further connect people to nature
- how best to create and manage trees and woodlands to help combat climate change
Under current plans, the consultation will close on 11 September 2020. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, however, the government will keep this date under review.
Government Responds to the Natural Capital Committee’s State of Natural Capital Report 2020
The government has responded to the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) State of Natural Capital report.
Launched on 31 January 2020, the report criticised the government’s delivery of the goals outlined in the 25-year environment plan (25YEP), stating that ‘…the absence of progress since 2011 is more notable than the successes. Broadly, the natural environment is deteriorating.’ The report recommends an urgent and comprehensive natural capital baseline census so that progress can be assessed robustly.
The main recommendations from the Natural Capital Committee 2020 Annual Report are:
- the inclusion in the Environment Bill of a general duty to protect and enhance the natural environment, with legally binding long-term and interim targets for each of the ten 25YEP goals
- placing three principles – public money for public goods, polluter pays, and net environmental gain – at the heart of environmental legislation
- replacing biodiversity net gain with environmental net gain in the Environment Bill as a matter of urgency
- a comprehensive, England-wide ‘environmental census’ of the stock of natural capital assets
The government response is comprehensive and is largely defensive of its current policy proposals. As a result of the NCC’s work, the government:
- recognises that the environmental assets that provide our clean air and water, opportunities for recreation, and our food and fibre, are an essential component of our nation’s infrastructure
- are able to make better decisions about how we interact with and manage our natural environment to ensure its health and resilience
- published the second annual progress report against the ten goals in the plan alongside this response to the NCC’s report
Defra review of the 25-year environment plan
Defra released its latest progress report against the 25-Year Environment Plan this month.
Launched in January 2018, the Plan outlines how the government aims to achieve several environmental outcomes: among them restoring and safeguarding wildlife habitats, improving air and water quality, and reducing waste.
Notably, the Plan aligns with several LI policy positions, and reflects many of the LI’s recommendations to Defra made during the consultation phase.
Currently, the government are performing relatively poorly in many areas:
- Air pollution is improving, but progress has stalled in more recent years and ammonia emissions have increased
- Only 14% of rivers are in ‘good health’
- The total area of woodland, while increasing, is falling well below targets
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest have improved, but only slightly
- Defra is not on track to restore 75% of our one million hectares of protected sites
Defra has conceded the need to improve performance in these areas. But there were some wins: among them an increase in the frequency of visits to natural spaces by adults in England, reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases from natural resources, and a reduction in roadside air pollution.
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