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The Climate Emergency

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 1:41 pm on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:41 pm, 17th October 2019

Yes, we would certainly envisage broadly the same direction of travel for the agriculture Bill when it is reintroduced. We very much value the input that Parliament previously provided, and all the fundamentals of the previous Agriculture Bill will remain intact.

Outside the EU, we can and will replace the common agricultural policy with a system that not only helps farm businesses to be more resilient, more productive and more internationally competitive but rewards environmental stewardship. From heathlands to hedgerows and from soils rich in carbon to better biodiversity, our farmers will be properly rewarded with public money for the public goods they provide. Breaking free of the CAP means that we can support a range of vital goals, including clean air and water, landscapes protected from floods, thriving plants and wildlife, and reduced carbon emissions and pollution. Brexit also means regaining control of our waters, so that we can manage our fish stocks sustainably, support our marine environment and give our fishing communities a much fairer deal than they have ever had from the common fisheries policy.

We are taking more action on climate change globally than any of our predecessors. We know that 70% of the world’s poorest people are directly reliant on the natural environment for their livelihoods We therefore believe that climate and nature programmes should be at the heart of our efforts to relieve poverty around the world. That is why the Prime Minister announced at the UN in September that we will double our international climate finance funding to at least £11.6 billion in the period up to 2025. He has confirmed £220 million of investment to protect international biodiversity and help to halt its decline. We share the grave public concern felt about plastics pollution in our oceans, and we are investing up to £70 million to fund global research to develop circular economies for waste around the world, working across the Commonwealth to keep plastics out of our ocean.

We are custodians of the fifth largest marine estate in the world, and we are on track to protect more than half of our UK and overseas territories waters by 2020, with a further £7 million recently announced to expand still further our highly successful blue belt programme. We are calling on the world to protect at least 30% of the ocean in marine protected areas by 2030, and 10 nations have already signed up to our new global ocean alliance. We are determined to make this happen.

Whatever our views on the climate protests, there can be no doubt that we as a nation find ourselves at a crucial turning point, and 2020 needs to be the year when the international community pulls together to agree time-bound, measurable and demanding environmental targets. We need targets for protecting biodiversity on land and in our ocean to help us to meet our climate objectives and tackle the tragedy of plastics pollution. That is what we will be asking for, as aspiring co-hosts of the crucial COP 26 conference in Glasgow next year, as we make nature-based solutions and biodiversity a central focus of our efforts to tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad.

In conclusion, the Government have one of the strongest records in the world on environment and climate issues. As the evidence becomes ever stronger, we are determined to escalate the UK’s response to the climate and nature crisis, both domestically and internationally. We believe that the Environment Bill published this week will be a big step forward in turning the tide on the degradation of nature and the natural environment. Combined with our legislation on fisheries, farming and improving the welfare of animals, this is a powerful reform package that will change things for the better in this country for decades to come.

There can be no doubt that we face a daunting task if we are to live up to our commitment to leave young people with a better natural inheritance than was bequeathed to us. We need a green economic revolution every bit as profound and far-reaching as the industrial revolution that this country once led. If we work together across the House and get this ground-breaking legislation on the statute book, we can lead global efforts to find solutions that work for climate, for nature and for people. I am happy to commend the Gracious Speech to the House.