Speaking at a Countryfile event yesterday, Villiers said she would press ahead with Michael Gove’s planned environmental land management system (ELMS) aimed at rewarding farmers for environmental stewardship, but added that the design of the “public money for public goods” approach would be underpinned by a different attitude towards rules and enforcement.
Villiers used the speech to commend her predecessor for his “outstanding work”, in particular for “committing the government to a hugely ambitious 25-Year Environment Plan”, adding that she wants the “85% of England that is classified as rural land to be rich in wildflowers, insects and birds”.
“And in our efforts to maintain the land, and the soil, in such a way that there is less pollution, greater fertility, more abundant biodiversity our aim is to create the conditions for economic growth which is both more sustainable and resilient,” she said.
The new secretary of state seems set on continuing the work started by Gove, reiterating his pledge that the Environment Bill will be “ground-breaking and the new watchdog it will create will have the powers and independence it needs to hold this and future governments to account so that standards are upheld, laws are respected and commitments are met”.
Quoting a letter sent to her by chair of the Environment Agency Emma Howard Boyd and Natural England chair Tony Juniper, Villiers said: “If we invest in nature and climate, we know it will increase long-term stability for health, security and prosperity. This is the new reality and present imperative … not an optional ‘green choice’ that we can only afford in good times.”
Villiers said she agrees with the letter and that she is “determined to ensure that we are the first generation to hand on the natural environment in a better state than we found it.”
Read Villiers' speech here