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The King's Speech: Our response

3 minute read

Brendon Queiroz

Brendon Queiroz, Public Affairs Officer

8 Nov 2023

King Charles III's inaugural King’s Speech officially marked the start of the 2023-24 parliamentary year. In it, we heard the Government’s current programme of priorities and the areas in which it will focus action.

A key narrative running through the speech was the Government’s stated intention to make ‘long- term decisions in the interests of future generations.’

We agree that the Government should be making long-term decisions in the interests of future generations and urge them to match rhetoric with action.

Less than 4% of the speech was dedicated to environmental action. This does not reflect the urgency and ambition we need to tackle the dual climate and biodiversity crises.

The speech declared that the “government will continue to lead action on tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, support developing countries with their energy transition, and hold other countries to their environmental commitments.”

The UK Government has also stated in the 2030 Strategic Framework for International Climate and Nature Action that the UK will “drive global ambition to protect and restore land and sea” and lead by example in “protecting and restoring land and sea at home”.

However, we haven't yet seen any concrete plans or examples that the Government have in train to bolster the UK’s global reputation as an environmental leader.

Also, through the announced Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill – which commits the UK to annual oil and gas licensing rounds – the UK Government has offered up a quick fix solution that will overrule our climate commitments and cause huge damage to precious marine environments.

Oil rig at sea

Credit: Clyde Thomas

We know that the UK could be a world leader on climate and nature action.

This was evidenced recently in announcements that the UK supports a moratorium on deep sea mining which will have great influences on the conservation of unique and vulnerable species. The UK Government can go further and faster to cement its position as a world leader by:

  • Implementing effective action to protect and restore at least 10% of enhanced protection of UK domestic waters.
  • Tackle poor water quality from plastic, chemical and sewage pollution.
  • Prevent damaging fishing practices and set catch limits supported by science.
  • Introduce marine spatial planning, that delivers marine restoration and enhancement for current and future generations.
  • Invest in the ocean and deliver a sustainable blue economy.
  • Stop all destructive oil and gas extraction projects.

There is no need to choose economic growth at the expense of protecting nature. Our research has shown that a healthy ocean will provide climate regulation, improved biodiversity, food, and economic growth.

Snakelocks Anemone, Chalk Reef, Freshwater Bay

Credit: Laura McConnell

If UK Government truly wants to invest in long-term projects, we would urge them to invest further in ocean restoration and recovery projects.

Long-term projects, like coastal ecosystem restoration, thrive when given time to work and when supported by local communities and national governments. Adopting this approach will give UK coastal communities ownership of these environments and ecosystems.

Working on the protection, maintenance and restoration of these habitats can create livelihoods that are passed across generations and become part of the local identity.

By scaling up our ambition for ocean recovery, more expertise and workforce will be required. Taking a wider and more holistic approach to restoration rather than isolated habitats, could lead to an exponential increase in local and national jobs created.

Seagrass underwater Bembridge

Credit: Theo Vickers

We believe that UK Government can go further to champion international action by leading on the world stage. To do this, we must get our own house in order.

Our Manifesto for the Seas provides a policy framework for UK Government, rooted in science and research, that would conserve our blue planet while delivering for people and our economy, including long-term green jobs, upskilling and training opportunities and levelling up coastal communities.

We hope to see political parties listen to our advice and include our policy asks in their party manifesto documents.