Defra reveals Labour Government’s five key climate and environmental policy priorities

The UK currently ranks in the bottom 10% of nations globally in terms of biodiversity intactness.

Last Friday (5 July), Prime Minister Keir Starmer announced his Cabinet shortly after his Party won the general election by a landslide.

This week, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Steve Reed, has announced his five main priorities for this Labour-led Parliament on platform X, formerly Twitter.

Reed said: “It is a huge honour that the Prime Minister has appointed me Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

“This comes at a time when we are facing a crisis point. We have record levels of sewage in our rivers, lakes and seas. Nature is dying. Confidence amongst farmers is the lowest on record.

“It will take years to reverse that damage that’s been done, but the work of change has now begun.”

The Department’s five core priorities include:

  • Cleaning up British rivers, lakes and seas
  • Creating a roadmap to move Britain to a zero-waste economy
  • Supporting farmers to boost Britain’s food security
  • Ensuring nature’s recovery
  • Protecting communities from flooding

Challenges ahead

Under the Environment Act 2021, the UK is legally obligated to halt the decline in species abundance and protect 30% of its land and sea for nature by 2030. However, currently, only 7% of land in England is protected for nature, and just over a third of that is in good condition, with similar lack of progress made for the sea.

The UK also ranks in the bottom 10% of nations globally in terms of biodiversity intactness.

Moreover, the UK’s climate adaptation plans, which include policies aimed at protecting communities from extreme weather events such as flooding and heatwaves, have been deemed inadequate twice by the High Court and are currently under judicial review.

Furthermore, extreme weather like the flooding currently impacts eight in 10 farms, with farmers urging the Government to provide more support to remain financially viable amid these challenges.

The UK’s food security is also threatened by the lack of international adaptation efforts. A study conducted last year by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) unveiled that around £8bn worth of food imported into the UK is currently exposed to climate-related risks.

Reed added: “The challenges we face are significant but together we will bring about the change we all want to see.”

Corporate action

In related news, the UK Corporate Leaders Group (CLG UK) has published a comprehensive policy briefing, outlining how the Labour Government can support businesses to accelerate climate action.

The briefing is designed to guide the incoming Government on how to achieve net-zero emissions and stimulate economic growth, while emphasising the need for ‘the right policies and bold political leadership’.

Recommendations include:

  • Maximise offshore wind and develop carbon capture,, green hydrogen, and battery storage
  • End new oil and gas projects
  • Invest in modernising the electricity grid
  • Reform energy pricing to favour low-carbon choices
  • Promote clean, flexible energy technologies in industrial areas
  • Implement sustainable water management and fund advanced treatment research
  • Develop an agriculture decarbonisation pathway and Land Use Framework
  • Standardise farm environmental impact measurements
  • Facilitate green finance for farmers and new technologies
  • Integrate climate and nature policies to support biodiversity and unified solutions

CLG UK’s director Beverly Cornaby said: “To unleash the green economy, we need a stable policy framework put together by an ambitious government – and ambitious corporate leadership.”

Related feature: From renewable energy to resources and waste: 10 green policy priorities for the UK’s new Labour Government

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