Farmers have a "crucial" part to play in hitting environmental targets set out by government

The chairman of the CLA has said farmers and landowners will have a “crucial role” to play in meeting the long-term environmental targets outlined by the Government this week.

Farmers will play a crucial role in reaching environmental targets the CLA said.
Farmers will play a crucial role in reaching environmental targets the CLA said.

Introduced to underpin the Environment Bill which is currently sitting at Committee stage in the House of Commons, the Government plans to set out legally binding targets to “ensure the UK tackles environmental and climate change challenges”.

Four priority areas have been identified – air quality, resource efficiency and waste reduction, biodiversity, and water – each of which will have a least one long-term goal attached which the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said will drive “significant and lasting” environmental improvements.

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They will include a promise to take robust action to improve air quality in the UK and to increase resource productivity along with reducing the volume of residual waste and plastic pollution the UK generates.

It will also outline commitments to restore and create wildlife-rich habitats in protected sites, as well as tackling pollution from agriculture and waste water to improve water quality.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said he hoped the new targets would provide certainty to businesses and society.

“The targets we set under our Environment Bill will be the driving force behind our bold action to protect and enhance our natural world – guaranteeing real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today.

“I hope these targets will provide some much-needed certainty to businesses and society, as we work together to build back better and greener.”

Mr Eustice said once proposed targets are developed they will be open to a public consultation which is expected in early 2022.

CLA president Mark Bridgeman said: “Farmers and landowners have a crucial role to play in meeting these long-term government targets to conserve and restore the natural environment.

“Businesses can do more if they know there is a long-term target to reach. The timeline of new targets being brought forward to 2022 is certainly ambitious, yet achievable.”

Defra has said there will be a “robust, evidence-led process” supported by independent experts to make sure the targets are “meaningful” and “environmental outcome focused”.

These will also be supported by interim targets to ensure the Government stays on track, with annual progress reports to be produced by a new environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection.

Defra has also indicated that further priority areas and targets can be introduced to tackle the most pressing or newly emerging issues.

But Mr Bridgeman warned for progress to be made, the Govern-ment must work with the private sector to ensure the resources and enabling policies are put in place.

“This includes the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, which will give farmers access to public money to deliver environmental benefits.

“With this scheme not being available until 2024, there’s still much uncertainty on how this will work in practice, while the old payment system is due to start being phased out in less than four months, leaving farmers with a significant cashflow problem.”

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