We can hand on the natural environment in a better state than we found it
New legalisation to mitigate climate change and grow the rural economy must be top of our agenda, writes Theresa Villiers MP
Brexit gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; a chance that no environment secretary has had for decades. When we leave the EU we will have the chance to take back control – control of our fisheries, our farming, and our rules on protection of animal welfare and the environment. That would enable us to drive forward the goal we have set ourselves to be the first generation to hand on the natural environment in a better state than we found it.
I want our farmers to be released from the unnecessary complexity and rigidity of the Common Agricultural Policy. We will implement a new system of support which rewards farmers for environmental stewardship and improving the health and welfare of animals, and which helps them become more productive, more successful and more sustainable.
This will be based on the principle of public money for public goods; it will be designed for our domestic needs; and it will be underpinned by a reformed and proportionate approach to regulation and enforcement.
As well as securing vital goals for our environment and animal welfare, one of my core aims is to provide a stable platform for our farming, food and drink sectors to thrive and seize the opportunities provided by Brexit to sell our high-quality food into new markets all around the world.
In Parliament, I look forward to bringing forward key pieces of legalisation. The Environment Bill will embed environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government; our Agriculture Bill will reward farmers for tackling the causes and effects of climate change and enhancing the natural environment; and our Fisheries Bill will enable us to manage stocks more sustainably and set us on a path to a fairer deal for our fishing communities.
Our country is at a crossroads and we have to act now. So this Conservative Government is driving forward a global agenda to tackle plastics pollution in our oceans. We were the first major economy in the world to make a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, and we are taking action to accelerate progress on securing cleaner water in our rivers and lakes, and cleaner air to breathe.
A key goal of our new Environment Bill will be to improve air quality so that our children live longer, healthier lives. It will help restore habitats and increase biodiversity across the UK. It will create the conditions for a move towards a more circular economy, where manufacturers, consumers and local councils share responsibility for reducing waste and increasing recycling and reuse. And it will ensure that we can better manage our precious water resources in a changing climate
I will also champion the food and drink industry around the cabinet table. This is the biggest manufacturing sector in the UK, with exports worth £22.5bn. Our produce is renowned for its quality. As we leave the European Union we will be working to ensure that Brexit works for this industry and that we open up new markets for them around the world.
The coming months will provide big challenges for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. For over 40 years, the great majority of the work of the department has been implementing policies and decisions made in Brussels. All that will change as we press ahead with leaving the EU.
I am working to ensure we are ready for that huge transition and ready to deliver the ambitious environmental agenda that the prime minister has set us on matters such as protecting biodiversity and habitats, enabling nature recovery, and harnessing nature-based solutions to meet our commitment to becoming a net zero carbon economy.
These issues are regularly raised with me by children and young people. They have shot up the political agenda, and this Conservative Government is determined to rise to the challenge which these young people have set us.
Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet and environment, food and rural affairs secretary
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