Hidden behind the fanfares of COP26, is arguably the most important progress to date for the environment in our country. Three years in the making, with numerous and often fiercely debated amendments, we finally have the Environment Act 2021.
This has felt like a long time coming. As a sector we are impatient. Impatient for the support of our legal system; and impatient for action beyond just conversation. In terms of progress, this announcement should have been front and centre and forms a vital part of the action needed to achieve our national and international commitments to address the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. Whether you agree with the details wholly or in part, it puts the rhetoric into law and provides our sector with a framework for change.
The new Environment Act introduces an array of new measures including Nature Recovery Partnerships, Species Conservation and Protected Site Strategies, and of course Biodiversity Net Gain to facilitate strategic action. It will halt the decline in species by 2030, require new developments to improve or create habitats for nature and tackle deforestation overseas. Of course, achieving Royal Assent is only a key piece of the jigsaw, albeit a pivotal one, but now that the Act has achieved Royal Assent, what we need is clarity, direction, and focus to deliver. Nevertheless, we should celebrate this as progress but with the knowledge that we have a lot to do.
Fundamentally, we need to be thinking strategically, beyond planning boundaries and avoid the risk of biodiversity still being seen merely as a number as part of a box-ticking exercise. We must openly collaborate, challenge, innovate and communicate, and we must do it now.