Discussions from the People, Politics and the Planet: Any Questions event

A stellar panel joined BES, the Sibthorp Trust, and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) for our second People, Politics and the Planet: Any Questions event this week.

People, Politics and the Planet: Any Questions
People, Politics and the Planet: Any Questions Scott Edwards

Chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby, our distinguished speakers included:

  • George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment
  • Baroness Kate Parminter, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Environment and Rural Affairs
  • Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party, Leader
  • Kerry McCarthy MP, Labour
  • Stuart Agnew MEP, UKIP Spokesperson for Agriculture
  • Martin Nesbit, Senior Fellow, Institute for European Environmental Policy
People, Politics and the Planet: Any Questions 2016 Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

The RGS was packed to the rafters as the panel took questions on the impact of Brexit on farming and the environment.

George Eustice MP reassured those in the audience that leaving the EU would not result in the loss of the environmental protections currently afforded by European legislation. The other members of the panel challenged Mr Eustice MP on the Government’s track record on environmental protection and the impact of its deregulation agenda. The Minister responded that the UK will remain signatory to international conventions, such as the Berne Convention, although experts have noted that international conventions do not always offer the same environmental protections as, for example, the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. Eustice also suggested that the Government may consider moving away from spatial designations towards a “technical management” system. The academic community will undoubtedly want to consider what impact this would have on environmental protections.

The Minister said the Government is aiming to align and integrate the 25-year plan for the environment and the food and farming plan, and it was encouraging to hear commitments to: base the UK’s future agricultural systems on river catchments; incentivise protection of ecosystem services through farming subsidies; and to deliver sound, evidence-based policy. These commitments will be essential for realising a truly integrated and holistic land management system at the catchment scale.

One area the panel was largely in agreement on was the UK’s positive influence on European environmental policies, in particular animal welfare standards and climate change regulation. That said, Brexit means the UK’s influence on European Union policies will diminish, despite the fact we are going to have to live by many of them (with the extent determined by our exit negotiations).

As Britain forges its new place in the world, the rule book is largely being torn up and it will be a time of flux for environmental policy. Despite the many challenges, this will also be an opportunity for the scientific community to redouble efforts in ensuring its work lies at the heart of UK policy. We will be working especially hard to make sure our members’ voices ring loud and clear to the UK’s policy makers.

Did you attend the event? What were the key points you took away from the evening? Get in touch and let us know. We would also like to thank the Society for the Environment and the Wellcome Trust for their generous support for the event.