Wyeside Consulting Ltd




Michael Gove gave a very important environment speech at Kew Gardens on 16 July 2019. William Wilson of Wyeside Consulting was amongst the invited audience of journalists, NGOs and others. It was a thoughtful retrospective of actions taken on the environment during Mr Gove’s stewardship of DEFRA, reflecting on the maxim that in politics …”it is always later than you think…”.

The speech was a demonstration of Mr Gove’s commitment to environmental issues and mastery of detail, and perhaps both an offer and a challenge. In other words, an offer, if political convolutions allow, to carry on the good work inside government: but if not, a challenge, setting out in detail Mr Gove’s aims and intentions for environmental policy and the Environment Bill, and thereby setting a whole list of benchmarks against the commitment of any successor will certainly be judged.

The full speech is at –


For comparison, please see the related post from William Wilson on this site at ‘Boris Johnson’s Environment Policy?’-


The speech gave very important pointers to UK government policy in a number of areas. Significant highlights are quoted below -

After a sombre reflection on statistics for species loss and climate change internationally, he noted that –

“The United Kingdom is now amongst the most nature-depleted nations in the world.”

On climate and global warming

“If we manage just to restrict warming to 1.5 degrees C, those risks are gravely serious. Beyond 2 degrees C, they are potentially crippling for the way we live now.”

…There is an economic need to act… And, of course….there is a moral need to act – because as Margaret Thatcher pointed out, we do not have a freehold on this planet, it is not ours, this generation’s, to dispose of as we wish. We are partners in the great chain of evolution with the rest of nature and endowed as we are with reason we therefore have the responsibility to steward and protect.”

On planned actions for 2020

…”we are bidding to co-host with Italy the 26 th Conference of Parties – the key UN climate summit at which the Paris Agreement on climate change will be formally adopted…

…The UK has accepted the recommendation of the independent Committee on Climate Change that by 2050 we should reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions…

…The second significant moment in 2020 where we can show leadership is at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity…

…the third opportunity for is in the UK to show our commitment to environmental transformation … The UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea will meet to negotiate a new Global Oceans Treaty…

…the United Kingdom has taken the lead in ensuring at least 30% of the ocean we are responsible for is protected by 2030…”

On a commitment to go above and beyond what the EU demands and expects

…”the 25 Year Environment Plan …

…our Agriculture Bill will reward farmers with public money for public goods…

…Our new Fisheries Bill includes measures to restore fish stocks to better health and take new management powers for our marine environment.

On the Environment Bill

…”air quality, water management, waste reduction and wildlife revival…

…The Bill seeks to emulate and complement the world-leading Climate Change Act of 2008…

…the Bill must create a robust, legally sound, framework for a comprehensive and integrated set of environmental targets which taken together can ‘bend the curve’ on environmental decline…informed by the latest science and evidence, we must make arrangements for independent, authoritative advice on the level at which they should be set…

…Since we published draft proposals for the OEP last December, we have heard many compelling arguments of how to ensure its teeth are properly sharpened. I am grateful in particular to the Environmental Audit and EFRA committees who were united in proposing a truly independent governance structure for the OEP…There is obvious merit in their argument that any body which is designed to hold the Government to account is independent of ministerial interference. Among the many possible models, the Office of Budget Responsibility stand out… the OEP should have a role in enforcing climate change law.

… there will be a legal obligation for all Government policy making to pay due regard to a policy statement, which will outline the core principles of environmental protection…

On nature and farming

…”The system of financial support for farmers which has operated under the common agricultural policy has been based on the size of productive agricultural landholding. That has worked against the natural desire of farmers to invest in the environment. We are going to change that, with the introduction of a new environmental land management scheme which pays farmers – and other land managers – for restoring and enhancing the habitats critical for wildlife flourishing.

On planning

…”In the Environment Bill, we will legislate the mandate biodiversity ‘net gain’ in future developments. We will ensure that the environmental impacts of new commercial and residential developments are more than made up for, by ensuring money is invested in improving existing habitats and restoring depleted environments to health.

… I welcome the compelling case the Wildlife Trusts have made for including a new system of environmental spatial planning in the Environment Bill…We will, therefore, legislate for a new framework of Local Nature Recovery Strategies in the

Environment Bill…

…I would like to amend the law to require all English public authorities not just to conserve but to enhance nature…”

On water

…”The recent Environmental Performance Assessment by the EA described water companies’ record in 2018 as ‘simply unacceptable’…

…water companies must bear their share of responsibility. And in particular on pollution… We need to take action and so do they…

…in the Environment Bill, Defra will support the regulators in ensuring that customers and he environment are protected. We will legislate to strengthen

Ofwat’s powers to update water companies’ licences, in order to make sure that they can do their job…”

On air quality

”As we leave the European Union I want us to be pace-setters not laggards in the drive to improve the air we breathe. And that means we have to take into account, I believe, the advice of the World Health Organisation…

…We have got to ensure our Environment Bill includes a legally binding commitment on particulate matter so that no part of the country exceeds the levels recommended by the WHO. And because we know that air pollution has a disproportionate impact on more disadvantaged members of society, we have to ensure that when public bodies draw up their plans to achieve air quality targets, [they] pay particular attention to the condition of vulnerable groups…”

On waste

…”Our new legal powers will also set resource-efficient standards for products, driving a shift in the market towards products that are lasting, can be repaired and can be recycled…

…We will ensure producers pay the full cost of disposing of their packaging. At the moment, producers currently pay only 10% of the cost of household waste. We will make them responsible for 100% of the net cost incurred in dealing with their waste.”

In summary –

…”in that global conversation, what role do we want our country to play? Do we want to be a silent co-conspirator with those who privilege present gain over duties to others? Or a leader in the fight for a better world? I know that destiny is truest to our past, and to our character. And that is why I will always argue for Britain to lead the fight for a better world”.

For further information, or to discuss the work being undertaken in these areas, please contact William Wilson, Barrister – Director, Wyeside Consulting Ltd on +44(0)1225-730-407 or email info@wyesideconsulting.com