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Biodiversity Loss

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 28 October 2021

The powerful new measures in our world-leading Environment Bill, alongside substantial funding and incentives to protect and restore nature, represent a step change in our ambition. Our commitment to protect 30% of land and sea by 2030 while setting a historic legally binding target to halt the decline in species abundance underlines our intent on all this. Internationally, we are playing a leading role in developing an ambitious new global biodiversity framework under the convention on biological diversity, making nature a top priority for our COP26 presidency.

Today is the memorial for Peter Ainsworth, my predecessor in East Surrey, who was Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee and on the board of the Environment Agency. I am sure that the Minister, like me, would like to pay tribute to all his work in this area.

Ahead of the Surrey-wide virtual COP summit tonight, will the Minister update the House on the work that has been conducted on the possibility of a new “wild belt” designation, which would protect biodiversity across the country?

We, too, obviously pay tribute to all the great work that Peter Ainsworth did, particularly in this area.

I thank my hon. Friend for her question and wish her every success with her virtual Surrey-wide COP26 climate summit. Many other colleagues are doing similar, really great events. DEFRA is working very closely with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on how future planning reforms could make a really big difference to our environmental outcomes. Protections, including those in particular areas—urban areas and such—will all come under that microscope. The Government will publish their response to the planning White Paper in due course.

The marine environment can play a huge role in climate mitigation, with blue carbon held in native oyster reefs, kelp forests, seagrass, salt marshes and so on. What are the Government doing to scale up the rewilding of our seas for biodiversity and blue carbon, an issue on which we could show global leadership at COP26 and at the convention next year?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising that really important point. Everything we are doing on protections relates to both land and sea, with the protection of 30% of the land and 30% of the sea. We are gathering more data on blue carbon. We do not have quite enough data yet to factor it into all our calculations, but we mean to do so. She is absolutely right that our kelp beds and salt marshes can make a great contribution, and a great deal of work is being done on that. Indeed, many of our flood resilience squads are linking in with such restoration projects.