Today I would like to persuade you that the Environment Bill proposed by your department is in need of reform to address the rapid decline of biodiversity, putting the UK at risk of an ecological crisis.
Major research organisations have pointed to the massive rates of biodiversity loss in the UK, showing almost half of all surveyed species declining in abundance. This poses an incredibly serious threat as biodiversity is critical not only to the health of ecosystems on which the human economy relies, but also to regulate climate and hydrological flows, disturbances of which could lead to potentially catastrophic environmental damage.
When the new Environment Bill in question today was announced, your department committed to reversing biodiversity loss. However, the proposed biodiversity offsetting scheme will be unable to accomplish this. Peer-reviewed research shows that offsetting simply cannot account for the complexity of ecosystem restoration, leading to an incredibly large rate of offset failures. The proposed scheme moreover neglects the socio-political issues inherent in a redistribution of ecosystem services. According to the proposal, offsets shall be negotiated between authorities and developers, which has not only been shown in a 2012 pilot to favour development over environmental protection, but also crucially excludes the public from decision making on offsets that might directly affect them.
I therefore propose three changes to the current bill. First is to introduce an environmental protection statute in the planning system to assist local authorities in prioritising environmental protection. Second, the proposed offsetting scheme must be replaced by an ecological compensation scheme. This would create a national commission to set biodiversity targets, requiring development projects to conserve, offset, or restore biodiversity, as needed to achieve those regional targets. Third, local authorities would hold recurrent planning meetings for the public to partake in devising criteria to guide negotiations between authorities and developers and to monitor target progression. Only by incorporating these changes will the UK truly rise to the forefront of sustainable development. I would therefore invite you to take a look at the complete policy briefing attached below and contact me at the included mail address to discuss these changes further.