Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP speech to Policy Exchange 20 November 2013 “Growing the economy, improving the environment.

Can we have it all?”

1 !ntro"#ction Thank you for inviting me to speak today. It’s a great pleasure to be here at Policy Exchange, a think tank that does so much to shape and inform debate across a wide range of issues. ot least through their latest report Park !and. "ince becoming #efra "ecretary last year I have set out my four key priorities for the #epartment. These are to grow the rural economy, improve the environment, and safeguard both plant and animal health.


%y desire to improve, rather than &ust protect, the environment, while at the same time growing the economy stems from Edmund 'urke’s description of us as the (temporary possessors and life)renters* of the earth who must live in a way which doesn’t (leave to those who come after+ a ruin instead of a habitation.* I have lived in the countryside all my life. I have always been immersed in its activities. I have seen for myself the impact each and every one of us has on the environment.

That’s why I believe that we need to leave our natural environment in a better condition than we inherited it.

-ur ,.$$

atural Environment /hite Paper 0 the first of

its kind for twenty years 0 set the goal of (being the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than it inherited.* That is a big ambition, to which I am strongly committed. This is not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s the only way in which we will secure growth that is both environmentally and economically



2 $he scale o% the problem There is no doubt that our natural environment is under pressure. In the 23 populations of farmland birds have declined by 4. per cent and woodland birds by $5 per cent since the $65.s. produced by a wide The "tate of range of ature report environmental

organisations earlier this year set out the scale of the task we face. That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. species have declined, others have /hile many increased

significantly in range or abundance over the last two to three decades. These include common and widespread species, as well as some formerly declining species that are conservation priorities, such as the red kite, otter or large blue butterfly.


The causes of this overall decline are broadly understood, with loss of habitat and increasingly intense human use of the countryside, not least in the $68.s, 95.s and 9:.s when agriculture went through a rapid period of modernisation. This is a problem that has

faced successive generations and governments. It is not a matter of blaming this government or that organisation. This is a complex and long)term issue that we must, as a society, work together to solve. This is especially the case as we try to deliver more, with fewer resources and less taxpayers’ money.


;esterday’s publication of the

ature <heck ,.$1 report

only serves to demonstrate the scale of some of the problems we face. /hile I would disagree with many of the report’s conclusions, it serves a useful purpose in highlighting the continuing limitations of a top down approach to the natural environment. If we are to make progress in this important area, we must look to a new approach, working with the grain of nature and society. =ence we must harness the enthusiasm and expertise of the public, farmers and landowners.


I am a practical environmentalist. I find common cause with all those who passionately believe that we have a duty to pass on a better environment than the one we inherited. Too many times those that say they are doing their best to protect the environment shy away from the difficult decisions. I won’t do that. The environment’s much too important to be left to ideologues.

-ur approach is based on three core principles>

?irst, the environment and the economy are inextricably linked. "econd, the natural environment in 'ritain is

overwhelmingly managed by man, rather than being abandoned in a homage to @ousseau. And finally, improving the environment is a national challenge reBuiring a concerted, partnership approach. It’s not something that taxpayers’ money or government alone can fix. practical country. /e must harness the rich seam of that runs through our


3 &rowing the economy' improving the environment


2p until recently the choice has often been portrayed as one of growing the economy or protecting the environment. That’s not how I see it. I am absolutely convinced that we can only improve the environment if we have a growing, prosperous economy. %rs Thatcher said, in a speech to the @oyal "ociety in $66., that (we must enable all our economies to grow and develop because without growth you cannot generate the wealth reBuired to pay for the protection of the environment.* I will never forget travelling to Albania and seeing brooks running black with oil as a result of the disastrous rule of Enver =oxha. failure. Economic failure led to environmental


In contrast, in <hina and a host of other countries, where per capita income is increasing as a result of continuous economic growth, people are taking an interest in their environment for the first time, resulting in more trees being planted. /e cannot have sustained economic growth without a healthy natural environment. either can we invest in

nature without the resources generated by economic activity. That is why I want to secure growth and improve the environment in tandem. These two priorities are not mutually exclusive.


/e need to be able to measure our natural capital and build it into our economic decision)making. That’s why we set up the atural <apital <ommittee. The

<ommittee, established in ,.$,, was one of the headline commitments in the /hite Paper. It is the first committee of its kind in the world. $he water in"#stry The water industry is a prime example of economic investment as environmental investment. -f improving the environment while growing the economy. The privatisation of our water industry in the late $6:.s has secured more than C$$8 billion of private investment 0 investment that would never have come from the ExcheBuer.


As a result, we have moved from several of our ma&or rivers being classified in the not too recent past as sterile or biologically dead to our waterways now being cleaner than they have been for decades. /e now have otters in every region of the 23. "almon and trout are returning to rivers and streams where they have not been seen for generations. Earlier this year I visited orthumbrian /ater’s waste

treatment site in =owdon on Tyneside. Their investment in anaerobic digestion is enabling them to process half a million tonnes of sewage, which was previously dumped untreated in the orth "ea every day. This generates

enough electricity to power the eBuivalent of :,... homes and produce a dry fertiliser for local farmers.


This investment not only makes economic sense for the company but it is also helping clean up the Tyne, once one of our most industrialised and polluted rivers. 2pon my arrival at the site, one of the staff showed me a picture of a large salmon, which he had caught only yards from where I stood, something that would not have been possible until recently. !ooking to the future, there’s still more to do. The /ater 'ill will reform the water market still further by removing barriers to competition. That will lead to a more efficient and resilient water industry with lower environmental impacts. It’s in the interests of the water companies

themselves to continue to invest in reducing leakage, pollution and unsustainable abstraction. It is not &ust

good for the environmentD it is good for business.


$he role o% technology The privatisation of the water industry shows us that we should not be afraid of economic or technological innovation. In fact, we should embrace it. Indur Eoklany has calculated that if we tried to support today’s population using the production methods of the $64.s, instead of farming 1: per cent of all land, we would need to use :, per cent. It has also been estimated that the production of a given Buantity of a crop now reBuires 84 per cent less land than it did in $68$. <ontinued progress and innovation could see us using cultivated land more efficiently, presenting us with exciting opportunities to free up more space for biodiversity and wildlife.

The adoption of technology will be key to us meeting the challenge of (sustainable intensification* as set out by the Eovernment’s former <hief "cientist, "ir Fohn 'eddington. Technological advances over the course of the ,.th century have also meant that 'ritain now has three times as much woodland as it did a century ago. /oodland cover in England reached a nadir of 4 per cent at the end of ?irst /orld /ar. Today, it stands at &ust over $. per cent, around the same level as when <haucer wrote the <anterbury Tales. /e believe that government and the forestry sector working together could achieve $, per cent woodland cover by ,.8.. An increase eBuivalent to a county the siGe of #erbyshire.


$he %orestry sector The forestry sector is leading the way in demonstrating how a healthy environment and economic growth can go hand)in)hand. /ith around two thirds of the 23’s

woodland resource in private hands, the importance of working with private individuals to make progress in improving biodiversity cannot be overstated. The Erown in 'ritain initiative, led by the forestry industry itself, is working to increase demand for 'ritish wood products, thereby increasing investment in the planting and management of woodland. The initiative seeks to provide an (economic pull* to galvanise landowners to see the many benefits, both economic and environmental, of well managed woodland.

Thanks to Erown in 'ritain, =eal’s is stocking a new range of 'ritish grown and manufactured ash furniture. Fust this relatively small step is supporting 8. &obs, ,. of which are furniture)making apprentices. It’s improving the environment and helping business. (io"iversity o%%setting -ne policy which I believe has huge potential for improving the environment, and placing our biodiversity on a sustainable footing for the future, is that of biodiversity offsetting. -ffsetting is a measurable way of ensuring that we make good the residual damage to nature caused by development which cannot be avoided or mitigated.


This guarantees that there is no net loss to biodiversity from development and can often lead to net gain. It will not change existing safeguards in the planning system but it makes it Buicker and simpler to agree a development’s impacts to ensure losses are properly compensated for. -ffsetting could help create a ready market for farmers, landowners and environmental organisations to supply compensation for residual damage to nature, providing long)term opportunities for investing in our habitats and biodiversity. It’s incredibly apt that I’m speaking here at Policy Exchange, the think tank that through its urturing

ature report has put offsetting on the political agenda and highlighted the real contribution it could make to our natural environment.


There are already over ,. other countries using offsetting and the Ecosystems %arket Task ?orce, chaired by Ian <heshire, concluded that we should adopt offsetting as its priority recommendation. ot all of these models would work here but we’re looking closely at the 2", Eermany and Australia to see what lessons we can learn. -n a visit earlier this year, I saw different models working well in Australia. And in Fuly I visited one of our offsetting pilots in /arwickshire. The 'iodiversity "trategy we published in ,.$$ sets out our plan to halt the overall loss of England’s biodiversity by ,.,.. The ultimate aim is to move from a net biodiversity loss to a net gain.


The @ural #evelopment Programme, which invests C7.. million a year in agri)environment schemes, is already rewarding farmers for providing and improving habitats and biodiversity. I see offsetting as a potentially important tool to sit alongside this. In a small and heavily)populated country such as ours, there will always be developments or infrastructure pro&ects that reBuire a trade)off between economic and social benefits, and the natural environment. It could be a new housing development that would cover some woodland, or a new road crossing a wetland area.


The first Buestion should always be 0 can the environmental damage be avoided or mitigated. If it can’t then we would look to offsetting to add an eBual or greater amount of environmental value to another area. 'ut this isn’t something we will rush into without careful consideration. The consultation on our green paper has &ust closed. I’ve gathered views from all sides of the debate, from developers, environmental organisations and the public. This was a genuinely open consultation. I am determined to find a solution that works for both the economy and the environment. I am determined to make sure the planning system allows sensible decisions on development by ensuring that environmental value is considered at the very start.


The ideal outcome is a system that correctly values nature. /e know it can work 0 in Australia offsetting has reduced the number of applications to develop on native grassland by :. per cent. "uch a system can provide certainty for both developers and the environment. ) Managing the co#ntrysi"e %oving to the second core principle of our approach, I believe that to build on the successes we’ve seen in boosting the populations of species such as the red kite and the otter, we must recognise that the countryside we see today, and the landscapes that are part of it, have been shaped by man over thousands of years.


In this country there is very little of what can be termed genuine wilderness. "ome of our most iconic

landscapes 0 the landscapes which have inspired artists and poets across the centuries 0 are managed landscapes. The !ake #istrict would not look the way it does today without the presence of sheep and the careful management of hill farmers. The #owns would soon return to elders and bracken if it were not for the presence of livestock and active farming. These landscapes not only support our plants and wildlife. They contribute to our health and wellbeing and attract large numbers of tourists. In rural England, the C11 billion a year tourism industry accounts for $7 per cent of employment and $. per cent of businesses.


H#man intervention -ur countryside is something which needs constant management and intervention. The influence of man

can be seen in both our flora and fauna. The names of the following species 0 the barn owl, harvest mouse, meadow pipit, corn bunting and hedge sparrow 0 demonstrate the importance of the farmed landscape to our wildlife. The American author and conservationist, Aldo !eopold, recognised this when he said> (The hope for the future lies not in curbing the influence of human occupancy 0 it is already too late for that 0 but in creating a better understanding of the extent of that influence and a new ethic for its governance.*

The backdrop of a growing population, increased pressure for land for development and changing farming practices means that this approach is more necessary than ever. It is after all human activity that has, across the centuries, removed many of the countryside’s natural predators and introduced invasive non)native species. It would therefore be a dereliction of duty for us to shy away from continuing to manage and intervene in our natural environment.


The work of organisations such as the Eame and /ildlife <onservation Trust demonstrate the importance of managing both our landscapes and wildlife

populations. The E/<T’s Allerton Pro&ect demonstrates the real contribution game management on farmland can make to meeting wider environmental ob&ectives. Its 9?ields for the future’ report, published to mark twenty years of the pro&ect at !oddington in !eicestershire, found that> • /ild pheasants increased four)fold in response to full game management, • =are numbers dropped substantially once predator control was withdrawn, and


• "ongbird numbers doubled in response to game management but showed a gradual decline once feeding and predator control was stopped. Individuals such the as Philip %erricks of are also all




components of conservation management. Elmley ational

At his

ature @eserve on the Isle of "heppey,

an hour from !ondon and which I had the privilege of visiting on "unday, predator control is enabling him to achieve lapwing fledging rates that both protect and increase the population. To maintain a stable population, lapwings need to fledge a minimum of approximately ..5 chicks per adult pair per year. In ,.$., %erricks achieved $.1 fledged chicks per adult pair, whereas the neighbouring nature reserve, where species management is not undertaken, achieved

a fledging rate of less than $. per cent of %erricks’s rate.

Tomorrow, I will be visiting !ark @ise ?arm in <ambridgeshire, the headBuarters of the <ountryside @estoration Trust. ?or ,. years the Trust has been

demonstrating how farming can coexist and benefit from a countryside rich in wildlife. In a relatively short time, otters and barn owls have returned after an absence of nearly forty years. The Trust is also leading efforts to try and clear a large area of the 2pper <am Halley of mink for the benefit of our indigenous wildlife. The scheme has been taken up by a total of 7, landowners, farmers and charities along

a total of 74 miles of water courses and lakes. As a result of this intervention, $81 mink have been trapped, with water voles beginning to make a comeback and the number of kingfishers and moorhens on the increase. /ildlife control is also playing a key role in the battle to save the red sBuirrel, a species which has been native to 'ritain for more than $.,... years but has been in decline ever since the more dominant grey sBuirrel was introduced from orth America at the end of the $6th

century. Ereys also cause significant damage to our woodlands. The @ed "Buirrel "urvival Trust and others have long been working, in partnership with local organisations and volunteers, to protect and stabilise our existing red sBuirrel populations. Erey sBuirrel control is central to their efforts and is starting to yield results. In the


East, monitoring shows that the red sBuirrel managed to expand its range by 5 per cent between ,.$, and ,.$1, with the greys’ presence in these areas shrinking by as much as $: per cent. /ith 5. per cent of all agricultural land in this country under an agri)environment scheme, there are real opportunities for us to begin to redress the current imbalance that exists in our countryside. An imbalance which, since $65., has seen 'ritain’s magpie and crow populations increase by 6. and :$ per cent respectively. /e must manage both landscapes and species. * living' wor+ing co#ntrysi"e It is against this background, that we must acknowledge that the beautiful landscapes and diverse ecosystems the countryside supports, will soon fall into disrepair

without the presence of thriving communities and businesses.

?armers alone are responsible for managing 54 per cent of the 23’s surface area. They are some of our greatest environmentalists from whom we can learn a great deal and with whom we must work in partnership. That’s why it’s so important that the 'ritish countryside is a living, working one and why I want to make sure that people in rural areas have access to the same services and facilities as people living in urban ones. I believe that the roll)out of superfast broadband has the potential to transform rural areas, bridging the age)old gap between rural and urban. It could be bigger than the


advent of the canals, railways and telephone combined. It will allow businesses to grow and expand.

Eoogle estimate that small online businesses can grow up to : times faster than their offline eBuivalents. I’ve seen brilliant examples, not least the architects’ business located in a converted barn at the top of a <umbrian fell designing golfing villas for clients in asiriyah. /e are investing C$., billion to ,.$4 to connect as many properties as possible. <urrently we’re connecting $.,... rural properties a week. And from ,.$4 there will be a further C,4. million to connect even more properties. /e’re also investing C$4. million to improve mobile phone coverage.

/e need to recognise the realities of rural life and the constant balancing act that’s necessary between different activities. I believe that we can have long term growth and improve our environment. That’s my vision. To achieve this we all need to work togetherD people, environmental groups, businesses and government. 'ut what we can’t do is look to government to have all the answers and turn things around overnight. That’s not how nature works. That’s not how the economy works. /atercourses, for example, are an important part of the rural landscape, from both an environmental and flood prevention perspective. #espite this, the last

government, in its blind adherence to @ousseauism, failed to maintain watercourses or enable land

managers to do so. That’s why we’re working to remove the unnecessary burdens that discourage farmers and

landowners from undertaking their own watercourse maintenance.

!ast month we launched seven @iver %aintenance Pilots across the country to do &ust this. These pilots are part of the wider <atchment 'ased Approach that make sure the river maintenance and other environmental goals are considered together to achieve the best outcome for farmers, landowners, local communities and the environment. /ith effective forward planning, river maintenance activities and their timing can be managed in ways which enhance water Buality and support wildlife interests, particularly fisheries. These pilots will help us


develop a new, more flexible consenting system for river maintenance by ,.$4.

, Practical environmentalism The third principle of my approach stems from the fact that we must seek to work with the grain of both nature and people. It is increasingly clear that a top down

approach to the natural environment hasn’t worked. /e must empower, encourage and utilise our farmers, land managers and civil society. All of whom have

knowledge and experience of where they live and work. These (little platoons* of practical environmentalism can help us with our ambition to improve the natural


environment, leaving it in a better condition than we inherited it.

/hen Ash #ieback was first discovered, the contribution of the public was invaluable to helping us identify diseased trees and monitor the spread of the disease. There was an innovative use of technology to make this possible 0 the <halara mobile phone app. I’m pleased that we’re taking this principle forward in the -bservatree pro&ect, which aims to develop an early warning system for pest and disease threats to the 23’s trees. This is a partnership between the ?orestry <ommission and other organisations. The /oodland


Trust and

ational Trust will use their experience to

recruit and train a network of volunteers.

The volunteers will support scientists by acting as a first line of response to the reports of tree pest and disease sent in by the public. They will screen and filter reported incidents, enabling scientists to focus on those reports of greatest significance. This is a brilliant example of how we can harness the enthusiasm of the public to benefit the natural environment and mobilise people to engage with an area of policy which would normally be considered the preserve of specialists.


There are also millions of people across the country who take part in activities such as shooting or angling and who as part of their pastime make a significant contribution to the natural environment. The ,..8

PA<E< report estimated that two million hectares of land are actively managed for conservation as a result of shooting and that the shooting community spends ,.5 million work days on conservation. The ,.$, 9?ishing for Answers’ report found that ,4 per cent of anglers said that they (contributed to environmental or aBuatic habitat conservation pro&ects.*


* partnership approach %any farmers and landowners already see themselves as stewards of the land they own or farm. They are also already working on a landscape or catchment area scale. In his ,.$. review of England’s /ildlife "ites and Ecological etwork, "ir Fohn !awton identified this as of

huge importance to the delivery of a more coherent and resilient wildlife network. If we are to succeed benefits, local in delivering partnership meaningful between and

environmental government,



communities will be key. This is especially important

when so much of the nation’s property, be it farmland or back gardens, is in private hands and often beyond the reach of /hitehall intervention. It is this sort of

approach that I want to seek and promote. That’s why we are building local partnerships in a variety of areas 0 !ocal Areas ature and Partnerships, <atchment ature 'ased

Improvement Approach.


This is the best way of directly engaging in the management of their local

communities environment. %any of the

ature Improvement Area partnerships are

led by voluntary organisations, with the aim of creating an environment that is better for wildlife and people. 'y working across large, discrete areas, this approach can provide a huge range of benefits, from flood protection to pollination services.

/e’ve invested C5.4 million over three years to establish $, Areas. ?or every pound invested, an additional C4.4. has been leveraged. This is a great example of government and private funding working together. A few weeks ago I went to see this approach in action in the ene Halley. It’s an area that had one of the highest

areas of species extinctions and the lowest amount of land being protected. The ature Improvement Area is

turning this around. They’ve worked to build strong ties with the !ocal ature Partnership and the !ocal

Enterprise Partnership. In the first year they’ve secured an additional C$ million of investment. An impressive 1,1.. days of volunteer time have been mobilised. $,4.. hectares of farmland have been added to =igher !evel "tewardship schemes. ?or these partnerships to work


they must en&oy the full co)operation of farmers and landowners.

The <atchment 'ased Approach is also being rolled out across all of England’s :6 river catchments. It will form the principle mechanism to deliver our national water Buality targets. Interested parties from the local area will take part in the decision making process. /e’re also applying a landscape)scale approach, or the marine eBuivalent, to our fisheries. In my ,..4 Ereen Paper, I described the <ommon ?isheries Policy as (a biological, environmental, economic and social disaster.* The continental, top)down control of our fish stocks, based on little local scientific evidence or regional

flexibility, has proved catastrophic for the sustainability of our seas.

I’m pleased that after three tough years of negotiation and as part of the historic deal on the <?P, we’ve been able to secure a move to a more appropriate, regionalised system of decision)making. /e’re also

putting an end to the scandal of perfectly edible fish being discarded, which was a key proposal in my Ereen Paper, as well as reaching a legally binding commitment to fishing at sustainable levels. This deal will help put our fish stocks and fishing economy on a firm footing for the future. economy. - .oncl#sion

Improving the environment.

Erowing the

This speech asked a Buestion 0 can we have it allI <an we have growth and improve the environmentI The answer is yes. It will take hard work and cooperation but we are laying the foundations. It is possible. I am absolutely convinced that to improve the environment we need a growing economy. At the same time we need to avoid growth that erodes our natural capital and therefore our ability to grow in the future. /e need to encourage and secure growth which conserves or enhances our natural environment. The countryside is not something that can be preserved in aspic nor would we wish it to be. It is something of which we are custodians. /e must seek, as practical environmentalists, to improve our habitats and

ecosystems, to leave them in a better condition than we found them. /e must not be afraid to intervene.

I believe that by working with the grain of the countryside and harnessing the enthusiasm that millions of people have for nature, be it on their farms or in their back gardens, we can make real progress in boosting our wildlife and biodiversity. Haluing natural capital, as the basis of sustainable economic and environmental growth, is central to this Eovernment’s vision. I look forward to working with you on making that vision a reality.


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