I completely agree that Britain’s natural environment is precious. The countryside, wildlife and urban green spaces are critical to health, wellbeing and a sense of community. The quality of the environment also underpins key industries such as agriculture and tourism.
This is why the Liberal Democrats are committed to a range of policies to safeguard and expand our valuable nature, such as passing a Nature Act to put the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) on a statutory footing. This would set legally binding natural capital targets, including on biodiversity, clean air and water, and empower the NCC to recommend actions to meet these targets.
We would also significantly increase the amount of accessible green space, including completing the coastal path, and create a new designation of National Nature Parks to protect up to a million acres of accessible green space valued by local communities. This would include reversing the current sharp decline in the rate of woodland creation by aiming to plant a tree for every UK citizen over the next ten years, and protecting remaining ancient woodlands.
Liberal Democrats would also continue to protect the Green Belt, and additionally protect and restore England’s lakes, rivers and wetlands, including through reform of water management and higher water efficiency standards, and establish a ‘blue belt’ of marine protected areas.
Additionally, our manifesto promises to ensure that the construction of new houses in Britain is more sustainable, and works for minimisation of environmental hazards such as bad insulation and other inefficiencies. We would also champion the construction of new Garden Cities, to ensure greater access to green spaces for urban populations. This also involves investment in innovative infrastructure, to ensure that the future of transport in the UK contributes to us reaching our environmental goals. We will also promote more efficient recycling to minimise waste.
Regarding Brexit, Liberal Democrats are committed to ensuring that last year’s referendum result will not lead to our environmental and consumer protections being watered down. We believe that the UK is better off within the single market, complying with the standards that such a membership involves.
The vote to leave the EU also puts farming and agricultural businesses in huge danger, threatening both cuts to the support which underpin farmers’ livelihoods and ability to manage the countryside, and also tariffs on exports. For agricultural products outside the EU, tariffs average 22.3% – putting Britain’s £18 billion of food exports in danger.
Our system must support farmers, ensure food production, and protect the environment.
Liberal Democrats are committed to continuing our long campaign to reform agricultural subsidies – making sure British farming remains competitive and doesn’t lose out in the event of Britain leaving the EU, rebalancing away from direct subsidy and refocusing support towards the public goods that come from effective land management including countryside protection, flood prevention, food production, and climate change mitigation. This would ensure that smaller farms are protected and move support away from large landowners, whilst delivering a more localised agricultural policy.