The UK government is taking a major step forward in its commitment to protecting the environment today, as it publishes its Environmental Improvement Plan 2023.
This plan sets out how the government will create and restore at least 500,000 hectares of new wildlife habitats, deliver clean and plentiful water supplies for people and nature into the future, challenge councils to improve air quality more quickly and tackle key hotspots.
Also it aims to transform the management of 70% of the countryside by incentivizing farmers to adopt nature-friendly practices, boost green growth and create new jobs – from foresters to green finance roles – as well as giving all citizens access to green space or water within a 15-minute walk from their home.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has introduced this plan which he believes will help drive forward progress, with renewed ambition, towards not just halting but reversing the decline of nature in Britain.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey also urged members of the public to join them in this national endeavor.
Details of Environmental Plan
Plans to restore nature, improve environmental quality, and increase the prosperity of our country will be set out by the government today (Tuesday 31st January) as it publishes its Environmental Improvement Plan 2023.
Building on the vision set out five years ago in the 25-Year Environment Plan, with new powers and duties from the Environment Act, Agriculture Act, and Fisheries Act, it provides a comprehensive delivery plan for the government’s approach to halting and then reversing the decline in nature.
This was the central target agreed upon in the new global deal for nature at the UN Nature Summit COP15 in December, which UK leadership helped deliver. The plan published today underpins that ambition domestically, with progress measured against stretching interim targets.
It will be unveiled by the Environment Secretary Dr. Thérèse Coffey at a keynote speech this morning.
It covers how the government will:
- Create and restore at least 500,000 hectares of new wildlife habitats, starting with 70 new wildlife projects including 25 new or expanded National Nature Reserves and 19 further Nature Recovery Projects
- Deliver a clean and plentiful supply of water for people and nature into the future, by tackling leaks, publishing a roadmap to boost household water efficiency, and enabling greater sources of supply
- Challenge councils to improve air quality more quickly and tackle key hotspots.
- Transform the management of 70% of our countryside by incentivizing farmers to adopt nature-friendly practices.
- Boost green growth and create new jobs – from foresters and farmers to roles in green finance and research and development.
The public will also benefit from a new commitment to access green space or water within a 15-minute walk from their home, such as woodlands, wetlands, parks, and rivers.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
Protecting our natural environment is fundamental to the health, economy, and prosperity of our country.
This plan provides the blueprint for how we will deliver our commitment to leave our environment in a better state than we found it, making sure we drive forward progress with renewed ambition and achieve our target of not just halting, but reversing the decline of nature.
Environment Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, said:
Our Environmental Improvement Plan sets out how we will continue to improve our environment here in the UK and around the world. Nature is vital for our survival, crucial to our food security, clean air, and clean water as well as health and well-being benefits.
We have already started the journey and we have seen improvements. We are transforming financial support for farmers and landowners to prioritize improving the environment, we are stepping up on tree planting, we have cleaner air, we have put a spotlight on water quality and rivers, and are forcing the industry to clean up its act.
Whether you live in a city or town, in the countryside or on the coast, join us in our national endeavor to improve the environment.
Other new commitments set out today include:
- A multi-million pound Species Survival Fund to protect our rarest species – from hedgehogs to red squirrels.
- Through the support of government schemes, 65 to 80% of landowners and farmers will adopt nature-friendly farming practices on at least 10 to 15% of their land by 2030. They will also be supported to create or restore 30,000 miles of hedgerows a year by 2037 and 45,000 miles of hedgerows a year by 2050.
- Setting out 10 actions we are taking on water efficiency in new developments and retrofits, including reviewing building regulations and other legislation to address leaky loos and confusing dual flush buttons and to enable new water-efficient technologies
- Restoring 400 miles of river through the first round of Landscape Recovery projects and establishing 3,000 hectares of new woodlands along England’s rivers.
- Reforming the current regulatory framework to rationalize the number of regulatory plans and create a more efficient system that better enables joined-up working to achieve catchment-level outcomes
- Challenging councils to improve air quality more quickly by assessing their performance and use of existing powers, while supporting them with clear guidance, funding, and tools.
- Reducing ammonia emissions through incentives in our new farming schemes, while considering expanding environmental permitting conditions to dairy and intensive beef farms.
- Improving the way air quality information is communicated to the public.
- Making it easier for people to do the right thing to minimize their waste, including a new set of interim targets for 2028 to reduce different types of waste, including plastic, glass, metal, paper, and food.
The plan sets out a clear framework to ensure progress can be clearly tracked.
The environmental principles policy statement will also be published today. It means that, from 1 November 2023, environmental protection and enhancement will be embedded into the design and development of new policy across the Government.
Natural England Chair Tony Juniper said:
We are facing a series of environmental challenges that are very serious, and pressing and are connected to one another. If we are to take effective action then we will need an ambitious and integrated plan that is geared up to meet some very challenging targets.
That plan and those targets are now live. The package is broad and most welcome and important. It will now require efforts across government and across society to translate its intentions into action.
This can be done, so long as priority is attached to it and we remain focused on joined-up delivery. Success will not only bring benefits for our depleted natural environment but also for jobs, food and water security, health, and investment.
Chair of the Forestry Commission Sir William Worsley said:
We all need to work together to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, to address the steep decline in biodiversity, to better connect people with the natural world around them, and to create the green jobs of the future.
Trees are at the very heart of this – the Forestry Commission has a key role to play in helping the Government achieve the targets laid out in this ambitious blueprint for a greener country and we look forward to doing so.
Environment Agency Chairman Alan Lovell said:
The Environment Agency welcomes the publication of the Environmental Improvement Plan to address the climate and nature crisis, building on the foundations set out in the 25-Year Environment Plan.
The Environment Agency provided input to the plan and we will play a major role in delivering it, including through our work on flooding, our protection and enhancement of nature, and through our regulation, monitoring, and enforcement.
Nick Molho, Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group, said:
Rapidly restoring nature and reversing its decline is essential for economic prosperity, the well-being of society, and the UK’s ability to adapt to climate change. It will require all parts of society and the economy to collaborate on environmental improvements as well as careful coordination between the UK’s climate and environmental targets.
Through the publication of today’s Environmental Improvement Plan, the Government has taken an important step forward, by bringing together in one place its vision for the environment and a delivery plan to drive progress.
The Government must now build on the objectives and policy commitments contained in the delivery plan and proceed at pace with the specific policy measures that will drive private investment over the next 5 years in biodiversity, air and water quality, resource efficiency, and other key environmental improvements.
Providing clarity on the near- and long-term policy commitments is essential to unlock significant private sector investment and ensure businesses play their part in restoring nature.”
Finally, it is welcome to see the publication of the Environmental Principles Policy Statement. A comprehensive and rapid implementation of environmental principles across all government departments is essential to drive coherent policy-making and ensure every opportunity is taken to drive environmental improvements and prevent harm at an early stage.
It is clear from the statements of Uniper, Sir William Worsley, Alan Lovell, and Nick Molho that there is a need for an ambitious and integrated plan to address environmental challenges. The Environmental Improvement Plan provides us with this roadmap towards restoring nature, reversing its decline and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
For this plan to be successfully implemented, however, it will require efforts across government and society as well as clarity on near-term policy commitments to unlock private sector investment.
Lastly, rapid implementation of environmental principles should also be ensured across all government departments so that every opportunity can be taken to drive environmental improvements.
With everyone working together towards these goals we may yet make the future brighter for generations to come.
Sources: THX News, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Natural England, Forestry Commission, The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, and The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP