Nurturing Nature: Policy to protect and improve biodiversity 2012

 

Nurturing Nature: Policy to protect and improve biodiversity 2012

(All UK)

The Policy Exchange’s Environment and Energy Unit issued a report in May 2012 to examine how the UK protects its habitats and biodiversity, and how current policy can be improved so that the decline in the state of the environment cannot just be halted, but be restored and enhanced. It also examines policy measures, such as biodiversity offsetting, to determine its success in reversing the decline in biodiversity over the past 60 years.

The key findings of the report were:

  • There has been a failure to properly value the services provided by a robust and connected natural environment
  • Inadequate design or implementation of many of the instruments aimed at ensuring that protection of biodiversity value is properly accounted for in decisions on how land is used
  • There has been a failure to take sufficient advantage of the potential benefits of market mechanisms in policy design

The policy recommendations are:

  • The National Planning Policy Framework should state that all developments requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment need to deliver an overall “net gain” in biodiversity.
  • Defra’s offsetting pilots should include testing of a compulsory offsetting scheme, to better inform future decisions about nationwide offsetting arrangements.
  • The government should set up a public registry of all offsetting and compensation projects, as well as for Environmental Impact Assessments.
  • Environmental Impact Assessments should be commissioned by Local Authorities (but still be paid for by developers). Information about EIAs should also be collected in a central registry.
  • Competition for Nature Improvement Areas should be extended when funds are available.
  • The Government should use funding under Pillar 2 of the Common Agricultural Policy to test auction and other market-based systems to deliver environmental improvements.
  • The EU should abandon its proposed approach to “greening” of Pillar 1. Instead it should increase payments to Pillar 2 (under a reduced overall CAP budget), and encourage market-based approaches to maximising environmental improvements.
  • The UK should switch some of its international forest and biodiversity funding towards bilateral projects, where possible testing payment-for-outcomes mechanisms. In due course, it should also consider experimenting with allowing international biodiversity projects to “bid in” to emerging UK offsetting and compensation schemes.

The policy aims should be:

  • Policy and actions should aim not just to protect existing biodiversity, but to enhance it.
  • Policy should ensure that the value of biodiversity is reflected in decisions about land use.
  • Funds available for biodiversity protection must be spent as efficiently as possible. This is best achieved by encouraging innovation and a wide range of conservation providers.
  • Policy should recognise that there is a trade-off between maintaining biodiversity within a local area and spending the same resources to achieve greater biodiversity enhancement overall at a national or international level.
  • Policy should be clear, transparent and easy-to-use for farmers, developers, landowners, NGOs and other participants.

Many of the recommendations set out in this report are radical and have not yet found their way into government policies and procedures.