Senior Conservative MP and former Chancellor Sajid Javid called for a new deal for nature to reverse the decline in biodiversity in a lecture tonight on conservative environmentalism. Speaking at the Conservative Environment Network’s Sam Barker Memorial Lecture, Mr Javid said, “our ambition to deliver restoration and renewal to nature should be on the same scale to the New Deal” enacted by US President Roosevelt in the 1930s.
He said the 2021 Dasgupta review into the economics of biodiversity, which he commissioned as Chancellor, revealed a “simple truth”, “which is that for too long, our economic system has traded environmental interests too much against the accumulation of physical capital and growth. And because of that, the rate of consumption we enjoy today is increasingly unsustainable.”
He warned: “Professor Dasgupta’s report made clear that ecosystems across the world are under immense strain, and once they collapse, so do the foundations upon which our economy is built.”
Mr Javid’s speech laid out how a new deal for nature would work, with a new approach to economic growth, unleashing private sector finance and investment, and securing UK leadership on future technologies.
To break “the false dichotomy of either having growth or supporting the environment”, Mr Javid proposed pricing natural assets so markets and financial institutions can value them based on social, moral, and economic worth. He called on the ONS to accelerate its work measuring natural capital to help set the global standard. Once this work is complete, there should be an annual stocktake of the UK’s natural assets and dedicated forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility of stocks and flows, reflecting nature’s importance to the economy.
Unlike Roosevelt’s state-funded New Deal, Mr Javid says we need to unlock investment from the private sector to pay for the $700 billion funding gap the Paulson Institute estimates we need to fill to reverse global nature loss by 2030. To achieve this, Mr Javid said the Government should announce plans to legally require large businesses and financial institutions to make mandatory disclosure of nature-related financial risks, shifting financial flows from activities which deplete nature to restoring it. To have a growing and resilient economy capable of sustaining a new deal for nature, Mr Javid said the UK needs to respond to the “major challenge” the USA’s Inflation Reduction Act poses to our economy and our ability to attract investment. Mr Javid said: “We don’t have the same fiscal firepower, but it is essential that we respond to this in a meaningful way so that UK leadership on the technologies and industries of the future can be secured. That is why our approach must be to build on our strengths, take more risks and move faster.”
His speech urged the government to simplify planning regulations and accelerate the process so businesses can quickly build clean energy and other net zero industries. He also called for full expensing against corporation tax to be expanded and made more generous for green industries to unlock investment.
Speaking to those who would advocate stepping back from environmental commitments, including “in the conservative movement” Mr Javid warned: “It would not wash with the British people, who want us to take action. It would be economically short sighted. And it would be a betrayal of our responsibility to the natural world.”