Biodiversity after Brexit : agri-environmental policy in England after Brexit and private investment in ecosystem services
Abstract: The process of agricultural intensification in England has brought with it significant negative environmental and biodiversity impacts associated with large-scale land use change. The Common Agricultural Policy, implemented at the European Union level, has historically been a significant driver of this intensification, but has also introduced agri-environmental (AE) policies for managing these negative environmental impacts. These AE policies are considered to be among the most important tools for managing biodiversity conservation. The British exit from European Union in 2019 means a new agricultural and AE policy within England, and there are indications that this will entail significant restructuring. In this work of Sustainability Science, I apply a mixed-methods policy analysis to examine the proposed post-Brexit AE policy in terms of it’s relationship to wider policy objectives, and the roles of the public and private sectors. Government policy documents, project proposals, and interviews with key actors provide the data for this policy analysis. I find that the proposed AE policy is related to wider economic and development objectives because of it’s importance for managing the basis of continued development, and that it integrates with these objectives through a “natural capital approach”. Furthermore, the role of public sector will be to correct the outcomes of market failures, while the private sector will be encouraged to invest in natural capital through approaches such as Landscape Enterprise Networks. Subsequently, I follow an immanent critical approach in analyzing the potential of increased private investment to achieve AE objectives, as well as ways in which this approach may be limited. I use a scenario to make plausible assumptions about the agriculture and environment in post-Brexit England, and outline the criteria for success that are internal to the policy framework. I then apply empirical evidence and principles from Conservation Biology and Ecological Economics. I find that, in at least some cases, increased private investment has the potential to contribute to AE objectives by increasing landscape heterogeneity. The approach is potentially limited, however, by the use of a natural capital approach for resolving trade-offs between the delivery of ecosystem services, and biodiversity conservation. This potential limitation must be overcome in order to reliably conserve biodiversity. Social choice is suggested as an entry-point for further research in overcoming this limitation and integrating possible non-environmental, social concerns.
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