Gove on 25-year Environment Plan: wait for it

Michael Gove has indicated DEFRA’s 25-year Environment Plan won’t be published until at least the end of the year. Speaking to the World Wildlife Fund last week, the environment secretary reported the Dieter helm-chaired Natural Capital Committee (NCC) will advise by September on objectives and methodology for the plan and that this would lay the grounds for its publication.

Gove noted the “understandable impatience that the plan has been longer in gestation than a baby elephant” but said he wanted to ensure the plan was “as ambitious as possible”. He explained: “It was the NCC which first made the case for a 25-year Environment Plan and I want to ensure we use the insights of natural capital thinking and accounting to develop an approach which will help guide us in every area from reforming support for agriculture to considering how we reform planning policy.”

Elsewhere in the speech, Gove pledged a “Green Brexit” pitching the UK’s departure from the EU as “an historic opportunity to review our policies on agriculture, land use, biodiversity, woodlands, marine conservation, fisheries, pesticide licensing, chemical regulation, animal welfare, habitat management, waste, water purity, air quality and so much more”.

Top of his list are agricultural and fisheries policy. Of the former, he indicated future subsidies would factor environmental benefits in to payments: “This government has pledged that when we leave the EU we will match the £3 billion that farmers currently receive in support from the CAP until 2022. And I want to ensure we go on generously supporting farmers for many more years to come. But that support can only be argued for against other competing public goods if the environmental benefits of that spending are clear.” He cited in particular support for woodland creation and habitats protection, both of which could have associated water quality and quantity benefits.