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UK Government publishes its response to the Dasgupta Review: key takeaways for the Rail sector

  • United Kingdom
  • Governments and Infrastructure
  • Transport - Rail

21-06-2021

On 14 June 2021, the UK Government published its response to the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity (the “Response”). The Response is comprehensive, and covers a diverse range of actions that will be / are being taken by the UK Government in light of the Dasgupta Review’s conclusions. 

The actions underpin two core commitments put forward by the UK Government in the Response, namely:

  1. to deliver a “nature positive” future by enhancing the environment so it is in a better state than at present and by reversing global biodiversity loss by 2030; and
  2. to ensure that economic and financial decision-making contribute to the delivery of a “nature positive” future.

As part of the first commitment, and in line with its “National Infrastructure Strategy”, the UK Government has decided to amend the Environment Bill[1] in order to introduce a biodiversity net gain requirement for “Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects” in England (the “Requirement”). The UK Government will consult on how the policy surrounding the Requirement will be shaped prior to its implementation, including building in a transition period and necessary exemptions[2]. It is hoped that the Requirement will cement a “nature positive” approach across the UK Government’s newest and most significant infrastructure projects, as well as provide improved environmental and biodiversity outcomes in accordance with its “25 Year Environment Plan”.

In addition, the Response confirms the UK Government’s intention to amend the Environment Bill so as to mandate the use of “Biodiversity Metric 3.0” for developments covered by the Requirement; this tool will help with calculating the current biodiversity of a development site, as well as assist with evaluating how the current level of biodiversity at a site can be increased.

What this means for the Rail sector

For those in the Rail sector working on “Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects” such as the development of major rail freight interchanges and relevant new railway lines[3], the Requirement will mean that project developers will need to take account of the new biodiversity net gain requirement once it becomes law and the applicable transition period has expired. It is anticipated that the use of “Biodiversity Metric 3.0” should assist project developers in meeting the requirement to achieve biodiversity net gain.

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[1] It is anticipated that the Environment Bill will bring environmental protections and recovery into national law. The Bill is currently at the "Committee Stage" in the House of Lords.

[2] In the context of the current position as regards the status of the Environment Bill and the conduct of relevant consultations referred to here, it remains to be confirmed when the Requirement might come into force at law.

[3] For a list of current infrastructure projects in the transport sector that are classed by the UK Government as “Nationally Significant”, see here