UK government pledges a ‘nature-positive future’
London – The government is to table an amendment to the Environment Bill that will require major national infrastructure projects to provide a net gain for nature.
And it says it will aim to implement the second leg of high-speed railway, HS2, in a “nature-positive” way.
Ministers were responding to a landmark independent review calling for nature to be at the heart of economic policy.
The report said prosperity “has come at a devastating cost to nature”.
What’s the Dasgupta review?
The eponymous review by Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta of the University of Cambridge was commissioned by the Treasury in 2019 and published in February this year.
The message was stark: the world needs to fundamentally overhaul how it measures economic success to stem the decline in nature that threatens lives and livelihoods.
The 600-page report said prosperity had come at a “devastating” cost to the natural world and proposed recognising nature as an asset and reconsidering our measures of economic prosperity.
How have ministers responded?
In its response to the review, the government said it was committed to delivering a “nature-positive future”.
It proposes amending the Environment Bill, a key piece of legislation that is currently passing through Parliament, to ensure new nationally significant infrastructure projects in England, such as future transport and energy projects, will provide net gains for nature.
In addition, HS2, which has caused controversy over the destruction of ancient woodland in its path, will aim to deliver a net gain in biodiversity on the Crewe-Manchester leg.
And the government said it was committed to ensuring all new UK bilateral aid spending does no harm to nature.
Kemi Badenoch, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said the response to the review “sets out the ways in which the Government will go further to ensure our economy supports nature and wildlife – from infrastructure at home to bilateral aid spending overseas”.
What are environmental groups saying?
Dr Richard Benwell, chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said the government was “‘on message’ but not yet ‘on the money'”.
He said big gaps will remain if the requirement for nationally significant infrastructure projects to deliver a net gain for nature did not cover all major infrastructure projects.
Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF, said the government response was “a step in the right direction”.
But she said if the government is serious about delivering for people and the planet it must strengthen the Environment Bill to include “a clear legal commitment to halt the decline of species and to restore nature – at home and overseas – by 2030”.
And she said we also need to see government “embedding environmental considerations into every decision it makes”. (BBC)