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 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 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 incentivising 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 prioritise 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 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 endeavour 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 rationalise the number of regulatory plans and create a more efficient system which 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 condition to dairy and intensive beef farms.
- Improving the way air quality information is communicated with the public.
- Making it easier for people to do the right thing to minimise 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 Government.
Natural England Chair Tony Juniper said:
We are facing into a series of environmental challenges that are very serious, pressing and which 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 meeting 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 intent 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.
Nick Molho, Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group, said:
Rapidly restoring nature and reversing its decline is essential for economic prosperity, the wellbeing 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 co-ordination 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.
The Environment Act designated the 25 Year Environment Plan as the first Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP). It created a responsibility for the government to review and revise the plan, if needed, every 5 years to ensure continued progress against the ten 25 YEP goals. This EIP (EIP23) is that revised plan. It sets out for the first time how the 25YEP goals, Environment Act targets and other commitments we have made domestically and internationally will combine to drive specific improvements in the natural environment.
The Environment Act was enacted in 2021. This required government to set a suite of legally-binding targets for environmental improvement in air quality, biodiversity, water, resource efficiency and waste reduction. The government has since extended this ambition even further, with additional targets for marine protected areas and woodland cover. The long-term targets were announced in December 2022. The Environment Act also required short-term interim targets, with a maximum of five years in length, to be included set in the Environmental Improvement Plan to drive progress towards the long term targets.
The Environmental Principles Policy Statement:
- In line with the Environment Act, the Secretary of State is publishing a policy statement on environmental principles, setting out how they are to be interpreted and proportionately applied. The five internationally recognised principles are: integration, prevention, rectification at source, polluter pays, and the precautionary principle.
The Significant Improvement Test:
- Today, we have also published the first Significant Improvement Test review report, as required by the Environment Act 2021.