Environment Secretary George Eustice set out his vision on how environmental protections can better deliver both for people and nature after Brexit.
Eustice, who was promoted to lead Defra in February after many years as a minister in the Department, delivered a speech at an event organised by Green Alliance.
He highlighted the government’s ambitions for a ‘green nature-based recovery’ as well as a new £4 million investment for green social prescribing, and set out his ambitions for ‘streamlining the environmental regulatory framework’.
In his speech, he said that leaving the EU table does not mean retreating from the UK’s role in the world, but that the UK should ‘redouble our efforts globally’.
He said that as a country the UK has opted for the ‘freedom to act and to decide our own environment policies in future’. He said that with that freedom comes ‘new responsibilities’.
We will not be able to hide behind EU law when there are difficult decisions to make or indeed blame the EU when things don’t work
‘It will no longer be the case that the UK can register a position as an outlier around the table during the development of a particular EU dossier, safe in the knowledge that a QMV voting system will always drive out something more nuanced,’ he said.
‘Instead we must learn to temper our own approach. And we will not be able to hide behind EU law when there are difficult decisions to make or indeed blame the EU when things don’t work.
“Instead we must level with people about difficult decisions and take responsibility for delivering the change that is required’.
He went on to say that a connection with nature contributes to well-being, and improved mental health, and announced a £4m investment in a two-year pilot to bring ‘green prescribing’ to four urban and rural areas that have been hit the hardest by coronavirus.
He also announced a £5m pilot on establishing a new Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment.
‘At the heart of our approach is a simple premise,’ he said. ‘If we can improve the baseline understanding of habitats and species abundance across the country in every planning authority, then we can make better decisions towards achieving our vision to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.’