I want to update constituents on environmental matters, as the COP26 conference gets underway, and as important legislation is being scrutinised in Parliament.
Starting with that legislation, the Environment Bill will ensure that the environment is at the heart of all decisions made and that current and future Governments are held accountable if they fail to uphold their environmental duties.
The bill will include meeting targets of net zero emissions by 2050, in addition to long term targets on biodiversity, air quality, clean and plentiful water and resource and waste efficiency. This will be completed through fulfilling targets such as reducing emissions of five damaging air pollutants (halving the effects that air pollution has on health by 2030), clean and plentiful water, using resources more sustainably and efficiently, minimising waste, mitigating and adapting to climate change and enhancing biodiversity.
On biodiversity the bill introduces a new biodiversity net gain requirement for development. This will ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced, with a 10 per cent increase in habitat compared with the pre-development baseline. The Government has also amended the Environment Bill to introduce biodiversity net gain for new Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects in England, making certain that new development leads to more nature, not less. Under the net-gain proposals, developers will have to assess the type of habitat and its condition before submitting plans, and then demonstrate how they are improving biodiversity such as through creating green corridors, planting more trees, or forming local nature spaces.
Ancient woodlands are already strongly protected under the National Planning Policy Framework. I know this is something many of us feel strongly about in Norwich, so I’m looking closely at this. The Government also provides advice for local authority planners for when they make planning decision proposals affecting ancient woodland, ancient trees and veteran trees. Ministers will build on existing protections, including by introducing a new category of long-established woodland (woodlands that have been around since 1840) and will consult on the protections they are afforded in the planning system. The new England woodland creation offer will also fund landowners to buffer and expand ancient woodland sites by planting native broad-leaf woodland.
Cleaner air matters to us in Norwich too. The Government has a ‘Clean Air Strategy’ which explains how the UK will go further than the EU in reducing exposure to particulate matter pollution, with the underlying goal to halve the number of people living in locations with concentrations of particulate matter above WHO guidelines. I am pleased that this strategy has been described by the WHO as ‘an example for the rest of the world to follow.’
The Environment Bill places a duty on the Government to set at least two air quality targets by October 2022: a target to reduce the annual average level of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in ambient air, and a further target to improve air quality.
Some constituents have contacted me regarding an amendment to the Environment Bill related to the use of pesticides. Protecting pollinators is a priority and decisions on pesticide authorisation are already based on expert assessment by the Health and Safety Executive. Current legislation requires that active substances and pesticide products have no unacceptable effects on the environment. Ministers will be publishing the revised National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (NAP) at the end of 2021. I am reassured that this will provide improved protection for pollinators, as well as human and environmental benefits.
I also welcome the recent announcement that the Environment Bill will be further strengthened with an amendment that will see a duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impact of discharges from storm overflows. I have already provided constituents with an update on this amendment which you can find more about here: https://www.chloesmith.org.uk/local/news/-a-load-of-squit---a-high-profile-vote-on-environment-bill
The UK was the first G7 economy to legislate to achieve net zero emissions. I’ve supported for some time the plan to achieve this, known as the ‘ten point plan’, geared at a green industrial revolution.
Through this, the UK will produce enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we currently produce to 40GW by 2030, which will support up to 60,000 jobs, and to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade.
In addition to this, our country will become a world leader in carbon capture technology to store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, investing £200 million, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030.
This plan will mobilise £12 billion of taxpayers’ investment to create and support 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs across the UK. It is expected to spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030. The plan builds on the UK’s existing strengths and will cement our capital city as the global centre of green finance.
On 19th October the Government published the Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener which builds on from the Ten Point Plan on how the UK will deliver on its commitment to reach zero emissions by 2050. The Strategy will support up to 190,000 green jobs in 2025 and up to 440,000 jobs across net zero sectors in 2030. The strategy includes an extra £350 million of the up to £1 billion commitment to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains and another £620 million for targeted electric vehicle grants and infrastructure, particularly local on-street residential charge points, with plans to put thousands more zero emission cars and vans onto UK roads through a zero emission vehicle mandate.
Further to this, an extra £500 million has been included towards innovation projects to develop the green technologies of the future, bringing the total funding for net zero research and innovation to at least £1.5 billion. This will support the most pioneering ideas and technologies to decarbonise our homes, industries, land and power.
The Chancellor announced in the autumn budget that the Government will invest a further £125 million to the Nature for Climate Fund and £250 million new funding to halt biodiversity loss, improving access to green spaces including through new Community Forests and funding free food waste collections in every area from 2025. The Government has also outlined the action they will take to phase out the most damaging practices to our peatland, phasing out managed burning on protected peatlands and reducing the risk of wildfire. New legislation has now come into force banning the burning, without a licence, of specified vegetation on protected blanket bog habitats. This will protect some 142,000ha of England’s upland deep peat.
The Government has also committed to undertaking a full consultation on banning the sale of peat and peat containing products in the amateur sector by the end of this Parliament. I am assured that ministers will work with industry to understand the implications of these proposals and with the private sector to develop and enact solutions, in order to make the transition to peat alternatives as seamless as possible.
For further information on the Net Zero Strategy please see the helpful link. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uks-path-to-net-zero-set-out-in-landmark-strategy
The Government also published two accompanying documents to explain how these measures will be financed.
Turning to COP26, as many will know, the context is the landmark Paris Agreement of 2015 which aims to halt global warming at well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. I am pleased that world leaders have committed to accelerating efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep the 1.5°C global warming threshold within reach. In addition, they committed to protect the planet by supporting a green revolution that creates jobs and cuts emissions. I hope that further global action is achieved at COP26 and I will continue to closely monitor the Government's work after the conference too.
The UK has a proud record on climate action, being the first major economy to legislate to achieve net zero by 2050. The Prime Minister has set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law of reducing emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, compared to 1990 levels. Additionally, all this builds on the existing interim target of reducing emissions by 68 per cent by 2030. The Government is taking world-leading steps to combat global warming, and I support this in Parliament. It is an issue that requires global attention and international action. That is why it’s good to bring together world leaders, climate experts, business leaders and citizens from across the globe to agree ambitious action to tackle climate change.
Encouraging progress has already been made. For example, when the UK accepted the Presidency, under 30 per cent of the global economy had signed up to a net zero commitment and I am pleased that that figure has now increased to 70 per cent. Around 120 countries are committed to or are developing long-term climate neutral plans.
For further on the COP26 conference please see the helpful link: https://ukcop26.org/. I will be following the COP26 conference closely on behalf of constituents while also focusing on the Environment Bill in Parliament.
The next sitting of the Environment Bill in the Commons is on 8th November. I expect there will be more robust debate then on the many important issues in the legislation before it is finalised.
Like you, and like the Government, I want our environment left in a better state than we found it for future generations. I am confident these measures will help care for our environment, which is one of my key priorities I have set out for my constituents.