Amendment 130

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:00 pm on 21st July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee 2:00 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, I declare an interest as co-chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership. I shall speak also to Amendment 142. Both these amendments relate to reducing the transition period for the introduction of ELMS from seven years to five years. I suspect that Members are probably not that keen on the idea at the moment, so for the next couple of minutes I intend to try to persuade them otherwise, because it is important that we reduce the transition period.

Members and indeed the country as a whole are aware of COP 26 this year which was supposed to take place in Glasgow concerning the climate change agreement and getting the Paris agreement carried forward in a positive way to meet our planetary carbon emissions targets, but many people are not so aware of a second major conference, COP 15, about the diversity convention. It was supposed to take place this year in Kunming, China but it has also been postponed until next year.

Biodiversity is a global crisis equal to climate change. Biodiversity is not just a problem of equatorial rainforests; it is a problem in Europe and here in the United Kingdom as well. The 2019 State of Nature report states that

“15% of species in the UK are now threatened by extinction,”

41% are in decline and a third remain effectively static, with only a small proportion gaining in number. Biodiversity is not just about bird spotters or twitchers and a comfortable feeling about nature, important though it is for our mental health and the energy of our countryside. It is also about supporting natural systems and allowing them to operate—ecosystem services such as pollination, soil formation, clean water, atmospheric oxygen, disease control and many more. All these are essential not only to the natural world around us but to our economic performance and indeed to our continued existence on this planet.

One of the great things that I have always praised in the Agriculture Bill is the idea not just of public money for public goods but that it should be concentrated on building up and improving biodiversity and nature in our countryside. That is important because about 70% of the land in England and across the UK is used in agriculture. However, I regret to say that it is because of agricultural management that biodiversity in this country has declined so significantly. I do not blame the farming industry and individual farmers for that, but I do blame the financial incentive system within which they have had to operate.

Why am I asking for the transition period to be reduced from seven to five years? It is because the biodiversity issue is a global crisis as well as one here in the United Kingdom. If we take no action and carry on with business as usual, economic systems will fail. At the end of seven years, we will be almost half way through the period of the 25-year environment plan, which I also welcome, although it must be properly financed and delivered.

It may sound trite, but I remind noble Lords that the Second World War lasted for a mere six years and we managed to overcome all the problems and challenges that affected us globally within that time. At the moment we are in a transition period, moving from being a member of the EU to our global position in just 11 months, with all the challenges that that poses, so surely we can manage to implement ELMS over five years rather than seven. I also remind noble Lords that, on nature depletion, the United Kingdom is not in a good position. We ranked 29th from the bottom out of 218 countries. That is why this issue is so important. I beg to move.