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We have a unique opportunity to influence the UK government as they produce a 25 Year Environment Plan. This aims to bring together government, business, the public, and environmental groups, connecting each and every one of us to nature in order to harness enthusiasm and deliver improvements to the environment following the EU Referendum. The Plan could provide the overarching umbrella that guides future regulatory frameworks, setting the direction for conservation and environmental policy in the UK for years to come.

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What is the 25 Year Environment Plan?

The 25 Year Plan is a long-term management strategy for the environment, which recognises the enormous contribution that nature makes to our wellbeing and our economy. It’s designed to ensure that these contributions can continue for generations to come, with a focus on reversing the long-term decline we have seen in our natural environment that has caused growing social and economic costs.

The Plan will be underpinned by the concept of natural capital, meaning it will take account of the full range of “natural assets” that give benefits to humans, such as forests and urban green spaces that provide clean air, absorb carbon and provide recreation, as well as rivers that provide freshwater for drinking, wetlands that provide protection from floods, and oceans that provide seafood and generate energy. 

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Why is the 25 Year Environment Plan imporant?

Back in 2011 the government made a commitment to protect our natural environment for future generations. But since then we’ve seen first-hand the impacts of ongoing environmental decline, such as climate change and floods, increasing water shortages, and health costs from pollution – these are significantly affecting our economy, resilience and wellbeing as a society. With the population growing and our demands rising with it, our planet’s natural resources are diminishing faster than they can be replenished.  We need to reverse this decline in our natural assets both here in the UK and abroad.

Following the EU Referendum result, and given that the UK now has the scope to think about what environmental legislation we will need outside of the EU, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dramatically improve the way we manage our environment and natural resources.  Through collaboration of government, business and individuals, we can lead the way in protecting our natural capital, and change the way we perceive nature, recognising it is a fundamental underpinning to our society and economy.

What is Natural Capital?
The plan must Rationale
Set ambitious, measureable goals, a legally enforceable action plan to deliver these, a strong regulatory framework and a transparent monitoring system
  • In order to achieve the goals set, a clear action plan is needed, with those responsible for delivery clearly identified.
  • By setting measurable goals, we will be able to assess progress regularly and make alterations to the action plan where necessary.
  • A legal and regulatory underpinning will ensure future governments are accountable for continuing to drive the plan forward, whilst giving clear direction to businesses and communities on what change is required by policy.
Involve all government departments and public bodies in the design of the plan, and hold them accountable for how their policies and actions will affect the delivery of the plan.
  • Other areas of policy can impact the environment, such as housing, transport and energy infrastructure. All Government Departments should be aligning their policies with the plan’s goals, reporting on impacts transparently and regularly to eliminate conflicts. 
  • There are financial benefits to investing in natural capital, which the Treasury should be identifying and monitoring, including by reporting on natural capital outcomes in the annual budget report.
  • Other Government departments stand to gain a lot too, such as the Department of Health through lower healthcare costs, so should be involved in identifying such opportunities.
  • Local authorities should play a crucial role, as many key decisions, such as Planning Decisions, will have an impact on whether the plan’s goals are achieved.
The Government must provide sufficient investment to achieve these targets and must mobilise additional finance from the private sector through an appropriate regulatory framework and system of incentives.
  • Although investment in natural capital will lead to the need for upfront funds, these investments are likely to pay for themselves down the line. The plan should ensure that the spending of any public money is cost effective.
  • The private sector also relies on natural capital. Incentives and regulations would ensure that the private sector has incentives to invest in natural capital.
Show leadership on the world stage by including a goal in the Plan specifically focused on measuring and managing the UK’s impact on the environment in other countries through the products we import.
  • We need to avoid ‘exporting’ our environmental damage to other countries, which would be unethical and not in line with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • We are enormously dependant on natural resources in the products we import from other countries, and if these aren’t sustainably managed it will threaten future availability. Leading the way by setting conditions within our trade deals and aid programmes could help reduce these risks.