Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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EAC calls for progress update on assessing environmental impact of trade deals and domestic tax measures

The Environmental Audit Committee is keeping the pressure on the Government to fulfil its recent commitments on assessing the environmental impact of trade deals and domestic tax measures.

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The Government’s recent assertions on trade deals and exploring how to monitor the impact of tax measures came as it responded to the Committee’s reports within its Biodiversity and Ecosystems inquiry. The Committee yesterday wrote to the Environment Secretary seeking an update.

Free Trade Agreements: Assessing environmental impact and environmental net gain

Within its response to the Committee’s report on the UK’s footprint on global biodiversity, the Government confirmed that it will assess the environmental impact of new free trade agreements. The Committee has requested how its assertion differs from its previous approach, and for an update on the Government’s commitment to consider how environmental net gain can be delivered in trade deals. This ask follows the welcome UK-New Zealand trade deal which was signed earlier this week and that the Government has hailed as being one of the "greenest deals ever".

Biodiversity net gain and the planning system

The Committee has also expressed its concern that local authorities lack the expertise and resources to ensure the planning system supports biodiversity net gain. With the Government yet to address issues within the policy, such as deciding who will monitor and enforce biodiversity net gain, and how it will be delivered, this laudable initiative could be rendered futile for environmental protection if not rapidly resolved. An explanation has been requested on how these policy issues can be concluded.

Applying a ‘net zero stress test’ on fiscal events

In the Government’s response to the Biodiversity in the UK: Bloom or Bust? report, the Government rejected the Committee’s recommendation that fiscal events, such as the Budget Statement, be subject to a ‘net zero stress test’. However, the Government did state that it would explore the “monitoring, evaluating and quantifying” of environmental impacts of tax measures, and the Committee is keen to receive an update as to the proposed improvements.

Mandatory reporting on procurement

The Committee stressed that the Government must lead by example in ensuring its procurement meets high standards of environmental sustainability. As such, it was pleased when the Government committed to reinstate mandatory reporting on sustainable procurement. The Committee is now seeking an update on the proposed timeline of the Government’s sustainable procurement commitments.

Chair's comment 

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, yesterday said:

“World Wildlife Day is as good a day as any to reflect on what more we can do to support biodiversity and ecosystems all around the world. Our Committee has spent much of the last 18 months considering biodiversity in the UK and overseas, and were shocked at the alarming rate at which we are losing habitats and species. We must put the brakes on biodiversity loss.

“From putting the environment at the heart of trade deals to prioritising nature in the planning system, there are ample measures we can make at home and abroad. While sentiments in the Government’s responses to our recent reports were welcome, we are today keeping the pressure up for ministers to deliver and report back on progress made.

“A healthy and thriving world is dependent on the survival of nature and critical ecosystems: we cannot stand idly by.”

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