Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by WWF-UK

1. WWF-UK welcomes:

1.1The Government’s commitment to putting the value of the natural environment at the heart of economic thinking, and the way we measure economic progress nationally. The economy and our well-being are fundamentally dependent on the natural environment and it is essential that the Government’s overarching economic aim is sustainable development rather than maximising short-term growth;

1.2The establishment of an independent Natural Capital Committee and the inclusion of natural capital in the UK Environmental Accounts;

1.3New guidance in the Treasury’s Green Book on valuing the natural environment in policy appraisals, including both monetary and non monetary valuation, and taking into account the diverse ways different stakeholders value nature;

1.4The recognition that integrated action at a “landscape scale” is the best way to achieve multiple benefits and restore ecological networks; and

1.5The commitment to reform the water abstraction system in the forthcoming Water White Paper. We hope to see clear timetables and plans to amend licences so that only sustainable amounts of water are abstracted from rivers and the natural environment, and this is done as efficiently as possible.

2. We believe the following should be improved:

2.1Addressing England’s global footprint: over one third of the biomass (wood, food, fibre, bioenergy etc) used by the UK economy is imported,1 and although there is clear acknowledgement of the issue, overall the level of response proposed does not match this level of demand on overseas ecosystems. There is no explicit commitment to reduce or minimise the impact of our economy on the natural environment in other countries. There are some relevant measures in the Green Economy section but these do not add up to a concerted effort or strategic approach that would follow from a high level commitment to fully address England’s responsibilities in this area. The key measures proposed to put the natural environment at the heart of economic thinking focus on national rather than global impacts;

2.2Integration with economic policy: it is not clear how the Natural Capital Committee, nor the inclusion of Natural Capital in environmental accounts, will ensure that the natural environment will be at the heart of economic policy making within the Treasury and BIS. This is a crucial and challenging task, given that currently, the only environmental benchmark in the Government’s Plan for Growth (“increased investment in low carbon technologies”) is not a sufficient measure of sustainability;

2.3Integration with current planning reforms: we are concerned that some elements of the emerging planning reforms (eg aspects of Energy National Policy Statements, the National Planning Policy Framework and the Localism Bill) are contrary to the aims of the NEWP and we query how conflicts and inconsistencies may be reconciled. In particular the reforms should ensure the planning system is geared towards achieving sustainable development, with a clear definition that this includes economic growth within environmental limits;

2.4Local Nature Partnerships: while we welcome the establishment of the Local Nature Partnerships, we have some concerns that the creation of separate bodies to deal with particular local issues (economy, environment) will lead to a siloed approach that does not promote sustainable development at the local level. To be effective, LNPs must be given the same level of support (financial and administrative) and recognition within the planning system as Local Enterprise Partnerships.

1961-2011: 50 years of conservation. WWF works in over a hundred countries to protect the natural world, tackle climate change and promote sustainable consumption.

21 June 2011

1 UK National Ecosystem Assessment (2011). Chapter 21: UK dependence on non-UK ecosystem services.

Prepared 16th July 2012