Why levelling up should mean real economic change

For two years, levelling up has been one of the main slogans of Boris Johnson’s administration, but there’s still no agreement about what it means. Strategic ambiguity can be a political virtue, though given both the government’s serious political challenges and the limited time before the next general election, it’s time to be explicit about what levelling up will actually do.

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There’s a lot at stake right now for England’s National Parks and AONBs

This post is by David Hampson, policy officer at RSPB and Ruth Bradshaw, policy and research manager at Campaign for National Parks.

As the saying goes, to tackle the nature and climate emergency, we need to ‘go big or go home’. Only bold action now can restore our lost and depleted wildlife and natural processes across large swathes of our countryside. And, as nature recovers it will replenish its ability to provide us with a liveable planet, with nature-rich green spaces to restore ourselves.

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The new Office for Environmental Protection has its work cut out

Today, the new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) began its work in earnest. The parts of the Environment Act which give it its legal powers and functions have been brought to life. This is a major milestone as it means that significant parts of the environmental governance gap that arose when we left the EU will be addressed, although there is still unfinished business, including in Wales and on environmental principles. The journey to get to this point has not been easy, with many challenges and times of jeopardy, making this a defining moment for our environmental governance.

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More gas isn’t the answer to the gas crisis

This post is by Anthony Browne, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire and chair of the Environment APPG.

The current energy crisis has led to calls for more gas. But the reality is that over reliance on gas has caused the upcoming squeeze on household budgets.

Eighty five per cent of British homes use gas for heating and more than a third of electricity supplies come from gas power plants. Right now, we’re exposed.

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We need new ideas about what a 21st century civil service is for

This post is by Dame Fiona Reynolds, chair of the management board of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy

The last few years have seen unprecedented challenges for modern governments, not least in the UK.  Pressures like Covid-19 (the first modern pandemic) and Brexit (disentangling sixty years of ever closer integration with the European Union), plus the growing realisation that we are not well set up to deal effectively with complex, cross cutting long term challenges like the climate and nature crises, have exposed cracks in even the best run administrations. 

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Scotland says it wants net zero but unfairly penalises micro hydro generation

This post is by Hugh Raven, managing director of Ardtornish Hydro.

Scotland, we are told by our government, is good at hydro. “We are committed to making Scotland a ‘Hydro Nation’ to bring the maximum benefit to the Scottish economy,” says the Scottish Government website. Hydro would include hydroelectricity, you might think, in a nation that provides 85 per cent of the hydropower connected to the UK grid.

The country’s topography and climate are certainly well suited. In 2020 hydro provided around a fifth of Scots’ power needs, with scope for further expansion yet. But, for that to happen, the Scottish Government needs to show some love.

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Covid has shown us the consequences of not taking systemic risk seriously

Laurie Laybourn-Langton is an associate fellow at IPPR and lead of the Cohort 2040 project.

A central lesson of the Covid-19 pandemic for environmentalism is that it needs get more serious about risk. The pandemic has proven a classic example of a systemic shock: a health crisis graduated into a financial crisis, an economic crisis, a social crisis, a political crisis and so on. Last year, worsening environmental shocks met the cascading consequences of the pandemic. The stable natural conditions in which our globalised world developed is now ending and a new era of systemic risk is emerging.

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Done right, new natural capital markets offer big opportunities for businesses and farmers

There are big changes afoot for agriculture and land use in the UK. Imperatives to halt climate breakdown and the decline of nature have led to a growing number of government targets requiring more action in the coming years. These targets cover a spectrum, including a legally binding aim for a net zero carbon economy and the mission to end nature decline by 2030, as well as commitments to protect 30 per cent of land for nature and reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent, also by 2030.

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The government’s incoherent approach to green skills is holding net zero back

The UK economy needs to go through a sea change to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Carbon intensive industries will have to go green, cutting emissions and restoring nature in line with the government’s environmental targets. Doing it in a fair way means upskilling those workers in high carbon jobs for new, low carbon roles while training the next generation to work in the green economy of the future.

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Farming reform is a big post-Brexit prize we should be careful not to lose

The government’s plans for farming in England have taken a kicking. In October, the NFU opposed reductions to the Basic Payments Scheme, and called for delay to the roll out of the new Environmental Land Management scheme (ELM). But many environmentalists see the first tranche of this new scheme, the new Sustainable Farming Incentive announced in December, as basic payments reheated. It was condemned by the National Trust, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts for ignoring “the important links between farming, climate and nature”.

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