Government advisor urges innovation and markets for 25-year green vision

The Natural Capital Committee (NCC) has urged the government to take an innovative and strategic approach when it finalises its long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan.

In its advice to DEFRA on the Plan, which was requested by environment secretary Michael Gove and published last week, the NCC called among many other things for the government to: base its vision for the environment on natural capital principles; to facilitate multi-stakeholder area-level investments; to use approaches including markets and auctions to allocate public funding for the environment so that it delivers better value for money; and to overhaul agricultural subsidies in light of Brexit. It said the latter should fund public benefits and be paid out on the basis of results.

The NCC proposed 12 goals for the plan, one of which was that: “All surface and ground waters at least meet good status requirements in line with existing international commitments. Bathing waters are healthy places for swimming and recreation, meeting international standards for excellence.” It went on to suggest what investments would be needed to deliver this ambition, and insisted milestones be built in to the plan.

On governance, the Committee repeated its call of January 2017 that the Plan should be put on a statutory footing to give it greater traction, suggesting the forthcoming Agriculture Bill would provide a good home. It also observed: “The Plan would benefit strongly from there being a single authority with statutory responsibility for its delivery, with line of sight down to specific accountabilities. The accountability of that body to Parliament must be robust and transparent, supported by an independent statutory scrutiny body to assess progress in delivery of the Plan… Such arrangements would constitute a radical departure from the current situation which suffers from layers of sometimes competing bureaucracy. Without a single authority taking responsibility, the Plan will struggle to succeed.”

The NCC advice added: “We would strongly encourage government to consider a range of models and options, including the idea of a ‘system operator’ for (aspects of) natural capital in different areas.”