Today is World Environment Day; it is a chance for us all to pause and reflect on the importance of nature to our health, prosperity and security. It is also an opportunity for us to redouble our efforts to leave the environment in a better state than we found it for future generations.
We rely on nature for our food, water, energy, medicines, and much more. Natural ecosystems play a critical role in regulating our climate and the transmission of disease - and they can protect us from the impacts of flooding.
The coronavirus crisis has caused us to reappraise our relationship with nature. We’ve seen the link between our destruction of natural habitats and the emergence of animal-borne diseases such as Covid-19. We have also become more appreciative of our local green spaces. We have noticed the more abundant wildlife, the clarity of the birdsong in the absence of traffic, and have valued breathing cleaner air.
Coronavirus has caused huge suffering across the world. But we must now build back better, to create a greener, healthier and more resilient world. The UK has a proud history of leading international efforts to tackle climate change. In November 2021, the UK will host the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow. This is an opportunity for us to lead the drive for more ambitious climate action, including restoring natural habitats, such as forests and wetlands, which capture and store carbon.
And at the same time, we can take action here at home. That’s why I’m supporting our landmark Environment Bill, which I hope to see return to Parliament very soon, and calling for stronger targets for improving air quality, restoring nature, and reducing our global environmental footprint. This Bill has the potential to make us a world leader in environmental protection as we leave the European Union. It puts in place a framework for legally-binding targets and an independent green watchdog to help Parliament and the public hold the government to account on its environmental commitments. It also includes measures to reverse the decline in nature and tackle the wasteful use of resources.
Taking steps to safeguard our environment is good for our economy too - creating jobs and sustainable growth. It will also ensure that we are more resilient to future risks, including climate change. After Covid-19, it’s possible to envisage a better world for ourselves and future generations - a cleaner, healthier planet where people and nature can truly flourish. That’s why, this World Environment Day, it’s time for nature. In the coming months, I will be working with my colleagues in the Conservative Environment Network to champion a recovery that puts nature at its heart.