Nature's Recovery (October 2023)

Thank you for contacting me about nature's recovery.

I appreciate you taking the time to contact me and very much share your wish to see nature and the environment prioritised. I would now like to take some time to respond to the points in your correspondence, and outline the steps the Government is already taking to address each of them.

As you may be aware, the Government has a legally binding target to halt the decline of nature by 2030, which requires action in our protected sites as vital wildlife havens. In its Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP), the Government restated the commitment to restore 75 per cent of protected sites to a favourable condition by 2042, while also setting an interim target to put us on the right path to achieving this goal by 31 January 2028.

I know that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) worked closely with Natural England in setting the interim targets in the EIP and consulted widely on the legally binding targets set out in 2022. Defra continues to work closely with Natural England to achieve both of these commitments.

Further, through the Sustainable Farming Incentive, farmers are paid for actions that support food production and improve farm productivity and resilience, while also protecting and improving the environment. This includes actions relating to soil health, hedgerow management, providing food and habitats for wildlife, and managing pests and nutrients.

When adopted at scale by farmers, these actions will make a significant contribution to the Government’s environment and climate targets, and support objectives to maintain food production and improve farm productivity. This includes the aim published in the EIP of between 65 and 80 per cent of landowners and farmers adopting nature-friendly farming on at least 10 to 15 per cent of their land by 2030.

Regarding green jobs, you may welcome that the UK has attracted around £120 billion investment in renewables since 2010 and is expected to attract a further £100 billion investment in net zero by 2030, supporting up to 480,000 jobs. The Government is providing investors with long-term certainty over policy and regulatory frameworks to unlock investment and create jobs in green industries such as hydrogen, carbon capture, offshore wind and nuclear.

I also note your call for businesses to fund nature’s recovery. I am sure you will appreciate that any decision to modify our tax regime is a matter for the Treasury and careful consideration will be given to any proposed amendments. I have, however, called for - and continue to do so - the Government to create an enabling environment which attracts investment into ocean and coastal nature-based solutions (blue carbon) to help mitigate climate change. This includes establishing clear regulations, providing financial incentives, and promoting public-private partnerships. By implementing supportive policies and frameworks, we can encourage private investors to fund projects in the blue economy and blue carbon sectors, helping to drive sustainable economic growth while protecting and restoring our ocean and coastal ecosystems. The role of investment and private sector finance is vital in unlocking the capital necessary to realise these opportunities. 

Finally, it is my view that access to open spaces and nature is important for the health and wellbeing of our communities, and I welcome that Ministers have set a new ambition that everyone should live within 15 minutes’ walk of a green or blue space. Through the £14.5m ‘Access for All’ programme, the Government has targeted measures to improve access to our protected landscapes and countryside. Defra is also working to complete the England Coast Path, which will be the longest waymarked and maintained coast walking route in the world. Ministers are also creating large-scale, publicly accessible woodlands near towns and cities.

I hope that this response has assured you that the Government is already taking steps to protect nature and ensure that it is easily accessible to as many people as possible, and I am expecting the Prime Minister to make further announcements on nature-based solutions to climate change in the near future following his decision to push back the deadlines for electric vehicles and boilers.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.