8th February 2023
The Government’s long-awaited Environmental Improvement Plan has been revealed – and has significant implications for farmers and landowners.
The Environment Improvement Plan is part of the requirement for a five-year delivery programme to reach targets introduced under the Environment Act. The Act was introduced in 2021 to enhance the environment by requiring the Government to set at least long-term target in respect of each of the following areas: air quality, water, biodiversity, and resource efficiency and waste reduction. The Act also requires the government to set specific targets for fine particulate matter in ambient air and species abundance.
The Government has now introduced new regulations which set out these legally-binding targets including:
To support the achievement of these targets, the Government has also released the first update of its Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP). The EIP sets out a delivery plan for the government's approach to halting and reversing the decline in nature over the next five years. Most of the commitments are not new but are already required by legislation or being developed under other policies.
The commitments in the EIP most relevant to farmers and landowners are:
Trees and Soil
There are likely to be further regulations on the horizon as the Government gears up to meet its environmental targets, including the potential extension of the requirement to obtain environmental permits for dairy and intensive beef farms, with greater scrutiny of the potential water and air quality impacts generated by their operations.
Farmers and landowners will soon have a wide range of options to consider when assessing the most appropriate and commercially viable ways of achieving environmental improvement on their holdings. The Government continues to develop its Environment Land Management Scheme (ELM) – an overhaul of farming subsidies which replace previous land-based payments from the EU with payments made on the basis of “public money for public goods”. However, the emergence of new private markets (such as mitigation for nutrient neutrality, biodiversity net gain and carbon credits) could generate significantly more lucrative income streams for farmers and landowners.
Our agricultural specialists are experienced at advising farmers and landowners on the practical and legal considerations of environmental schemes and other aspects of diversification.
The Thrings Agriculture team has been chosen by the NFU to act for its members in more counties than any other firm. Find out more about how we can support farmers, food producers and rural communities on our Information for Farmers page.