Thursday, 20 January 2022

Second Homes in Cornwall

Last week the Government announced a new policy to deal with the problem of second homeowners classifying their property as a holiday let in order to qualify for Business Rates and the associated reliefs.  Under the new rules, a holiday let must be marketed for at least 140 days per year and occupied as a holiday let for at least 70 days per year in order to not be considered a second home.  It is an important step forward to dealing with a longstanding challenge that some villages in Cornwall have faced.

Of the many problems that people bring me each week, difficulty getting access to housing is one of the most persistent and always has been.  Sometimes families that need access to a larger property find it difficult to move up if they are in social housing; local people can find it hard to buy their first property and get on the housing ladder; for those needing a bedsit or small flat, the quality of the accommodation and the overall living environment is often very poor.  The Covid pandemic has meant that people have not been able to holiday abroad and there has been a huge demand for temporary accommodation. As such, a number of private landlords withdrew their property from the residential market and used sites like Airbnb to get a larger income for temporary lets.  That has exacerbated an already difficult problem over the last twelve months or so. 

The causes of the shortage of housing are complex.  It is partly because we have more people moving to Cornwall to retire which increases demand for bungalows in particular.  Family breakdown means that more people live alone or families become split between two properties.  There are too many properties that are left unoccupied when they could be brought back into use and we need to build more housing but in the right places.  I have always argued that we should build new housing but focus on brownfield sites first.  It is worth the extra effort to try to deal with derelict sites at the same time as creating new homes.  Cornwall is a narrow peninsula with a beautiful landscape but it is a landscape that is vulnerable to insensitive development so getting the planning system right really matters.

While addressing housing supply is one thing, affordability remains the biggest barrier to homeownership as you’ve identified. To address this, the Government is investing over £12 billion in affordable housing over five years, the largest investment in affordable housing in a decade. This includes the new £11.5 billion Affordable Homes Programme, which will provide up to 180,000 new homes across the country, should economic conditions allow. It will also deliver more than double the number of homes for social rent than the current programme, with around 32,000 social rent homes due to be delivered.

To help those who want to buy their first home, we are introducing a new mortgage scheme to provide a guarantee to lenders offering mortgages for those with a 5 per cent deposit for properties up to £600,000 in value. This was introduced on 19th April 2021 and will help people to secure loans with a smaller required deposit from the outset.

However, in many villages across Cornwall, especially in coastal areas, we have seen much of the housing stock being bought up by 2nd homeowners or turned into holiday homes. This takes much of the community out of these areas leaving few options for local people to live in the areas they often grew up in.  The policy announced this week is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Future Agricultural Policy

This week, I have set out more detail of our future agriculture policy. The system of subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy inflated land rents, denied new entrants access to the land and dumped a whole host of absurd and burdensome rules on our farmers.

We are now embarking on a period of change. We have been able to directly involve farmers in designing our policies so we have the best chance of getting it right.
 
Successful and profitable agricultural production is crucial to the continued success of our food manufacturing industry. The food industry is bigger than the automotive and aerospace industries combined, and we have some brilliant examples right here in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle – from Rodda’s clotted cream to Philps pasties and Furniss biscuits. None of our food manufacturers could succeed without the farmers who supply them with high-quality produce.
 
Since the 2016 referendum result, farm incomes have generally recovered. We have seen the price of beef and sheep running at very strong levels. We’ve seen gross margins in some of the cereal sectors increase by around 30%. Now, the shape of our future policy is emerging and we are already rolling out elements of it.
 
We’ve already launched our new Animal Health and Welfare Pathway. This means that any livestock farmer who’s currently a claimant of BPS will be entitled to a funded visit from a vet once a year to put in place an animal health strategy.
 
We’ve also set out plans for the Sustainable Farming Incentive. This is all about trying to incentivise a more sustainable approach to farming right across the farm landscape. Initially, we’re focusing on promoting soil health, but there will be future modules on things like sensitive hedgerow management. Here in Cornwall, we have always looked after our hedgerows and small fields and it is right that our farmers are rewarded accordingly.
 
We are increasing the payment rates for Countryside Stewardship by, on average, 30%.  For those who have not yet engaged with Countryside Stewardship, I would urge them all to look again at it as it will provide a stepping stone to Local Nature Recovery. Most holdings have a part of the farm that is perhaps not really suitable for crop production, less productive, or difficult to work. There is an opportunity to make those parts of the holding a special space for nature – which we will reward under that scheme.
 
The final component of our future policy is Landscape Recovery. This is going to be about much more fundamental land-use change. To begin with, we are looking for 15 projects ranging in size from around 500 hectares to 5,000 hectares.
 
I’ve always said that this should be an evolution, not a revolution, and at the heart of our policies is ensuring that we support farmers to make the choices that they want to make for their own holdings.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Overcoming Omicron

Over the past few weeks and over the Christmas period we have seen a rapid spread of Covid-19 across the country caused by the Omicron variant.  Although it was always predicted that the new variant would spread more quickly it is also now apparent that the symptoms are considerably weaker and that those with a booster jab usually suffer only very mild symptoms.  As a result, although the number of people in hospital is rising, it is far lower than last year at present and infections also appear to be slowing down.  
For the last year, the overall strategy has been to roll out a vaccination programme as the route out of the pandemic and to see a return to life as normal and the government has been rightly cautious about imposing further restrictions in recent weeks.  At some point, we have to learn to live with the virus and the protection that the vaccines are giving now allows that to happen.  The evidence is clear that those that have had no vaccines are at much higher risk of severe illness, while those who have had a booster have the greatest protection.  That is why so much work was done over the Christmas period to increase the number of people with their booster jabs.  Although it is a busy time of year at the best of times, NHS staff and volunteers did some fantastic work to accelerate the deployment of boosters.
However, we also want to help the rest of the world emerge from the pandemic.  The UK developed one of the first vaccines to be used.  We have now distributed 2.5 billion doses of the UK-developed AstraZeneca vaccine, just 1 year after the first dose was administered here in the UK. This has undoubtedly saved countless lives and will have made a substantial difference to end the pandemic but there is further to go in other countries and we are supporting programmes like Covax which is operated by the World Health Organisation.
It is too early to say that this pandemic is over, but it does feel like we may be turning a corner.  I would urge anyone who has not yet had their booster jab to book an appointment as soon as they can and for those who have been reluctant to have any vaccine at all, to reconsider that given the evidence.

Death of a Cornish Comedy Icon:
This week we also saw the funeral of a Cornish comedy icon, Jethro. He was of the same generation as my parents and was well known from a young age for his ability to make people laugh.  During his over 50-year career, Jethro sold more than four million DVDs and regularly shifted 250,000 seats a year on his theatre tours, which included a performance at the Royal Variety. His death is a sad loss for Cornwall, but it was great to see so many people turning out to celebrate his life.

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Happy New Year 2021/22

The New Year has always been seen as a chance for renewal, an opportunity to turn over a new leaf or to make a fresh start. At a personal level, many people will resolve to stop smoking, join a gym or make other changes to their life.  After two very difficult years for our country as we have wrestled with the Covid pandemic, here are a few areas where I think our country should resolve to make changes.
Firstly, we all need to learn to live alongside the threat of new variants of Covid and carry on with our lives. Emergency powers should never be used lightly and the restrictions required over the last two years, while necessary, have been quite draconian.  Now that the vast majority of the population is vaccinated and receiving booster vaccinations, we should resist the inclination to bring in restrictions on people’s lives and allow people to manage their own risks in their own way.  We do not want another year where people are told whether they can go to church or attend band practice.
Secondly, we need to finally fix the problems that have caused pressure on the NHS by joining up adult social care and health services.  While there has been a huge increase in funding for the NHS over the last decade, the demands have also grown and there are pinch points that need to be addressed.  A number of doctors surgeries are struggling to recruit the next generation of GPs and too many are relying on part-time GPs.  We are then getting too many people turning up at A&E and, because of staffing problems in nursing care, hospitals are also not able to discharge patients as quickly as they should.  This situation is exacerbated because the clinical staff at hospitals are sometimes too risk-averse in prescribing how much care support a patient needs when discharged which makes it hard to discharge them at all.  The government is making a further huge cash injection into the NHS funded through a new social care levy on National Insurance but we need to ensure that the structural issues that exist in the system are fixed as part of that package.
Thirdly, the problems of mental health have worsened during the pandemic and we need a concerted effort to get it back on track.  Some of it is down to the frustrations of modern life.  For the elderly, it can often be linked to loneliness and for the young, teenage anxieties are exacerbated in the age of social media which can be needlessly cruel.  Then there are all of the issues associated with drug abuse and we have been affected by the “county line” drug problem like many other communities.  Trying to nurture a culture across our society where we focus on wellbeing, recognise the value of friendships, family and nature in helping people stay grounded and encourage people to look out for one another is key.
Finally, here in Cornwall, we need to make further progress in addressing our housing shortages.  Some of it is due to second home ownership in coastal villages but it’s also more complex than that.  There are also many people who are choosing to retire to Cornwall for understandable reasons and in some of our towns, the problems of family breakdown mean more households divided which places pressure on housing availability.  We do need to build new homes but must build on brownfield sites before greenfield sites and we must go the extra mile to ensure that homes that are built are aesthetically beautiful and fit the local built environment.
The end of 2021 was a difficult one for the Prime Minister and the government with controversies and challenges on multiple fronts.  For our part, we will be wanting to put some of these problems behind us in 2022 and get to work on the big issues our country faces as it gets back on its feet.
I wish you a very happy New Year and a successful 2022!

Thursday, 23 December 2021

2021 Christmas Message

This week there was an extended Cabinet meeting to consider the latest evidence on the Omicron variant of Covid and assess whether further restrictions are needed.  The government has decided not to introduce any further restrictions at this stage but to keep the matter under close review.


There are times when you have to make big decisions on issues but with very limited evidence and the current situation reflects just that.  We know that the new variant is spreading very quickly but we always predicted that it would so that is not really a surprise and is in line with expectations.  The key doubts are around the severity of symptoms and the extent to which the vaccines that we have all had will provide protection.


The Omicron Variant was first discovered in South Africa and they are judged to be about 2 to 3 weeks ahead of us.  Infections also grew incredibly fast but are now starting to fall quite quickly which is encouraging.  There is also some evidence that the symptoms are milder than previous variants with those who do end up in hospital typically staying for 3 or 4 days rather than the average of 10 days for previous variants.  It is very hard to estimate the number of daily hospitalisations we might have and models range from a few hundred to many thousands per day, but the best estimate is that it might get as high as 3000 per day which is about 25 per cent lower than the peak earlier this year.  The 4000 per day admissions earlier this year put pressure on the NHS but was manageable.


The key unknown factor is the extent to which the vaccines we have to reduce the severity of symptoms.  The big drive for people to get their booster jab is for the very good reason that the early evidence suggests that having a booster significantly reduces the chances of infection, perhaps getting up to an 80 per cent reduction. Almost all of the older, more vulnerable cohorts and many others have now had their booster jab and those who have not yet got round to it should try because it is crucial to our efforts.  The double vaccinations will provide some protection against symptoms but limited protection against infection and uncertainty about the extent to which a double jab will reduce the severity of symptoms is where the doubt lies and the risk exists.


We have had two years now of using emergency powers to impose exceptional and highly illiberal restrictions on people’s everyday lives: telling them where they can meet, how many people they can meet, whether they can attend band practice or play sport or go to work.  You can’t maintain those sorts of extraordinary powers indefinitely which is why the government is trying to chart a different course this time, being honest about the risks we face, unable to rule out the possibility of taking further legal restrictions but being deeply reluctant to do so and instead relying on individuals and families to exercise their own judgement and manage their own risk and try to reduce their exposure in their own way.  There is evidence that they are doing just that which makes the impact of further legal restrictions more doubtful.


Despite the uncertainty we face, Christmas must be is a time for hope and optimism. It is an opportunity to speak to family members and spend time with friends without the frequent pressures of work or normal life. I am pleased that Christmas will be proceeding as normal this year.  The social distancing needed to slow the spread of Covid-19 over the last couple of years has made people value friendships and family connections and realise the importance of these relationships. Given the frantic pace of life in the modern world, we had perhaps lost sight of this as a society at times.  While many may be finding it difficult this Christmas, we must all try to make an effort to maintain the important links to those most important in our lives and continue to look out for one another.


I wish you all a very merry and happy Christmas!


Thursday, 16 December 2021

Visiting Pool Academy

Last week, I visited Pool Academy and met a group of students to discuss some of the key issues concerning them ranging from the environment and climate change to housing issues in Cornwall and economic opportunity for young people. The questions were thoughtful and we had a detailed discussion around some of the challenges facing the local area.  
On climate change, we talked about the progress that had been made at Glasgow and the importance of having hope and optimism rather than a culture of despair.  On housing, there are specific challenges in Cornwall and we talked about the proposals from Cornwall Council to require planning for change of use to a holiday let or maybe a higher council tax for second homes.  And on local opportunities, we talked about the development of a new computer software industry in the area.  In fact, the founder and Managing Director of Bluefruit, one of the leading new businesses in this area, was a former pupil at Pool School and has now set up a world-leading software business here.
Throughout the Pandemic, young people, in particular, have been affected by the lockdown restrictions since the start of the pandemic. The decision to close schools earlier this year did not just have the obvious effects around disruption to exams and teaching.  It is much more profound than that.  Children in both primary schools and secondary have been separated from friends.  Children’s birthday parties can’t happen as they normally would and should.  School sports events are not happening.  We, humans, are social creatures.  Friendships and the company of others are important.  Forming those bonds and friendships is a really important part of growing up, whether it is in the formative early years as children start their first years as infants at primary school, or whether it is in those tricky teenage years as young people wrestle with all the insecurities and concerns that accompany that stage of life.
However, young people are also remarkably resilient and all schools in the area are reporting that, while education has been set back, young people have bounced back quite quickly.  As we see more uncertainty about the threat posed by the new Omicron variant of Covid and Parliament introducing some further measures to try to curtail it this week, let’s hope that we are all able to avoid having to take any further steps.

Stepping Up the Booster Campaign:
In light of the increased threat of the Omicron variant, the Government has decided to enact the ‘Plan B’ measures set out in the summer and designed to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. While the restrictions we are having to consider now and have had to implement on Covid over the past two years have been deeply frustrating and many emergency measures have been draconian and highly illiberal in nature, they have not been done lightly. It is absolutely clear: the vaccine is the UK’s best way out of the Pandemic.
As such, I strongly encourage you all to get your booster vaccine as soon as possible. In line with the Government’s goal of offering everyone a jab by the end of the year, the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group have stepped up the rollout including reopening the mass vaccination site at Stithians Showground and other pop-clinics across Cornwall. Head to their website to find your nearest one as soon as you can. 

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Harnessing Cornwall’s Natural Resources

In Cornwall, we are privileged to have access to a beautiful landscape with a wealth of resources and have a rich history of leading the world in new and innovative technologies. Many of these were highlighted with G7 being held in Cornwall earlier this year and Climate Change dominating much of the agenda.

Climate change and environmental concerns more widely have risen the agenda in recent years. Fifteen years ago, David Cameron made it a central part of his agenda when the Conservatives first came into office in 2010. Now, following COP-26 in Glasgow and the G7 in Cornwall, the UK has a firmly established place as a world leader on Climate Change and the goal of Net-Zero.

Historically, Cornwall has an important place in this country’s industrial development with Camborne and Redruth being two of the wealthiest towns in the land at the height of the copper and tin mining eras. Camborne, in particular, was home to Richard Trevithick who invented the steam locomotive and epitomised the contribution made by Cornwall to the Industrial Revolution. Today, we are continuing this tradition by helping the whole country in cutting emissions and establishing a pathway to protect our precious environment for future generations.

Across Cornwall, there are several businesses across Cornwall that are working hard to create new, green industries that sustainably make use of our natural resources. From harnessing the ideal conditions with floating offshore wind in the Celtic Sea to reviving the Cornish mining industry at South Crofty and United Downs- where there is some of the highest-grade tin and lithium in Europe.

The first deep geothermal power project in the UK is here in Cornwall at United Downs. Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) is a small Cornish company that has successfully proved the concept by drilling two deep wells, one to bring the naturally hot water to the surface and the other to deposit the used fluid back underground. Geothermal electricity is known as baseload, because it is generated 24/7 regardless of the weather at the surface, balancing out the peaks and troughs of other renewable energy sources.

This week, I am visiting United Downs to meet with GEL to discuss some of their potential future projects across West Cornwall. While I am very supportive of Geothermal Power and harnessing some of Cornwall’s natural resources in a sustainable environmentally friendly way, any work must be carried out with the consent of Cornish residents. I look forward to hearing from GEL about what they are doing to address any concerns highlighted by residents.

Nonetheless, it is clear that Cornwall is in a unique and historic position. With the right support from the government and some innovative thinking, we are developing into the Green Energy capital of the UK and could well play an important role over the course of the next decade.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

The Omicron Variant

This week the Prime Minister set out a proportionate set of actions to tackle the newly identified Omicron Variant of Covid-19 that was first discovered in Southern Africa.  It includes new temporary and precautionary measures that will allow scientists time to better understand how the new strain of the Covid virus has developed. This was an extremely difficult decision.  None of us wants to return to the sorts of restrictions we have had to endure over the last two years, however, there are some uncertainties around the new variant, so we need to make the space to better understand it.
These measures include making face coverings will be compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport and requiring all travellers to take a PCR test when arriving back in the UK, on or before day two of their arrival. We have also placed South Africa, Botswana, and other African nations on the red list as a precaution to prevent unnecessary spread of this variant.
The main concern is that the Omicron variant contains a large number of spike protein mutations as well as mutations in other parts of the viral genome. Urgent work is ongoing internationally to fully understand how these mutations may change the behaviour of the virus with regards to vaccines, treatments, and transmissibility. Vaccines remain our best line of defence and experts remain confident that our current vaccines will provide protection against the new variant, but the extent of this continues to be investigated.
However, our extensive vaccination programme and test, trace and isolate system continue to be the most effective way of reducing transmission, along with practicing good hygiene, keeping spaces well ventilated, and wearing a face covering in enclosed or crowded spaces. Over 16 million people have already come forward for their booster jabs, and we have seen a fall in hospitalisations and deaths. All adults who have not yet received their first or second dose of the vaccine, or those who are eligible for their booster should be encouraged to come forward to help protect themselves and others.
Both the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have been clear that these measures will only be in place for as long as is strictly necessary and not one day more. If it proves to be the case, as many initial investigations indict, that the Omicron Variant of COVID-19 is no more deadly or significant that the Delta variant, these restrictions will be reversed. As such, the government has committed to a review three weeks from now.
Cornwall has been particularly vulnerable throughout the pandemic, and with the existing pressures on our health service we have to act with caution when considering the risks on new variants. However, it is important to understand that vaccination is our best way out of this pandemic and put us firmly back on the road to normality. As such, I strongly encourage you to have both your first and second vaccine and your booster when called up.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Male Mental Health

 As we emerge from the pandemic there are many challenges that the government is currently grappling with.  There is a degree of turbulence in international supply chains, a labour shortage, work to be done to help children and young people catch up with their education, and a backlog of operations caused by NHS being focused on Covid over the last two years.

Another emerging challenge relates to mental health.  It is clear that two lockdowns have led to heightened anxiety, more loneliness, and more cases of depression.  Doctors’ surgeries locally are currently under intense pressure and much of the new case load is due to mental health related issues.

We humans are social creatures.  Friendships and the company of others are important. It is scientifically proven that spending quality time with loved ones and friends in a social setting has a considerable positive impact on our mental health. While we may not fully understand both the physical and economic impacts of lockdown for some time, it is clear that spending months confined to home and being unable to socialise and meet friends and family has put a strain on some.   On a more optimistic note, there is also a lot of evidence that people are extremely resilient, schools report that most children have rebounded very quickly as they have returned to school and society has largely picked up where it left off.  People are socialising again, going out for a drink with friends and have returned to work.  

It has long been recognised that men are more likely to be affected by depression than women because they are less likely to discuss their worries, thoughts or concerns with others and can bottle up negative thoughts. Often fear is the most prohibitive factor in men not having these discussions; fear of judgement, fear of losing control or fear of being weak. This makes it even more important that as a society we work hard to address this inequality and cannot ignore the issue of male mental health.

In the UK, men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women with men aged 40-49 having the highest suicide rates. Furthermore, only 36% of referrals for NHS psychological therapies are for men. Men are more likely to go missing, end up homeless, become dependent on alcohol or drugs and suffer from clinical depression. Men are often expected to be the breadwinners and to be strong, dominant and in control. While these aren’t inherently bad things, they can make it harder for men to reach out for help and open up. Some research also suggests that men who can’t speak openly about their emotions may be less able to recognise symptoms of mental health problems in themselves, and less likely to reach out for support.

While this may paint a gloomy picture, it is important to highlight the important work that many charities such as MIND do to promote male mental health. One group, called Strong Men, does brilliant work supporting men that have suffered from a bereavement. There are also efforts of organisations such as Movemeber that has men all over the UK growing moustaches to raise awareness for men’s mental health and prostate cancer.

Tragically, we have recently seen a rise in suicide throughout the pandemic including here in Cornwall. Such incidents are often not predicted and can take friends and family by complete surprise.   There are no easy answers to the complex factors that influence mental health but getting a focus on wellbeing and trying to nurture a culture that promotes it in our society is going to be increasingly important.  

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Remembrance Day 2021

Last Sunday was Remembrance Day and I joined many others attending services in both Hayle and Illogan. Last year, the lockdown meant that parades and services could not be held so it was good to see such a strong attendance return again this year on the 100th Anniversary of Remembrance Sunday.  Once again local Cadets, Scouts, Brownies and other youth groups like the Illogan Football Club and Hayle Life Saving Club were out in force.
This year also marks the 100th year since the creation of the Royal British Legion, which was first created in May 1921 as a voice for the ex-service community- incorporating several other organisations that were created following the end of the First World War. The organisation was granted a royal charter in 1925 and has enjoyed consistent patronage from members of the Royal family ever since.
The scale of sacrifice in our country is apparent through the names listed on memorial stones up and down the land and both the First and Second World Wars and all the wars since touched every community and virtually every family.  I take one of my Christian names from Charles Botterell, my Great Grandfather who fought in the First World War and suffered ill health as a result of his shrapnel wounds.  At the service in Hayle, the names of the fallen from the town in each of the world wars were read out which was powerful but drove home the scale of loss.
The Royal British Legion is best known, aside from Remembrance Day, for creating the Poppy Appeal. The red poppy was chosen as the flowers grew quickly in the war-torn region of Northern France and Belgium. The poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ refers to the poppies growing among the graves of fallen soldiers. Ever since, the flower has been a symbol of remembrance for many, showing that the individual has chosen to give a donation to the Royal British Legion and support their vital work for those that have served in our country’s armed forces.
Charities such as the Royal British Legion, or others such as Help for Heroes or Combat Stress, play a vital role in our country supporting veterans and highlighting issues such as PTSD or other mental health conditions resulting from serving in combat. The issues they highlight directly led to the government establishing the Office of Veterans Affairs in 2019 and the Prime Minister giving the clear commitment to make this the best country in the world for veterans to live in. I firmly believe that it is our duty to ensure that those who served our country continue to receive the very best possible care.
We also have a number of local veterans’ groups that do good work supporting former service personnel including Turn to Starboard, Surf Action and Active Plus. These charities do vital work with those suffering from the effects of PTSD, physical injury or who have difficulty re-adjusting to civilian life. This gives the veterans a chance to take up new activities and learn new skills; be that circumnavigating oceans or learning to surf alongside men and women who have shared similar experiences and trauma.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

COP-26: Protecting Nature

Over the past two weeks, world leaders and Ministers have been in Glasgow at the COP 26 meeting, working on new agreements to tackle climate change.  I was there for four days over last weekend to lead some of the discussions on forests and nature recovery and took part in sessions on forestry and sustainable agriculture.
We have made some good progress.  More than 120 world leaders signed up to commit to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, in an agreement known as the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use. Those leaders represent over 90% of the world’s forests – from the northern forests of Russia to the tropical rainforests of Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Crucially, it is also being backed up by £8.75 billion of public funds and £5.3 billion of private investment. Forests are the lungs of our planet, absorbing around a third of the global CO2 released from burning fossil fuels every year. We have been losing them at a terrifying rate.  This has to be the moment to reverse this trend, protect our forests and restore degraded land.
We have put nature at the heart of our COP presidency, and we have worked closely with countries around the world on this agenda. For example, Costa Rica has done incredible work in restoring natural ecosystems and it is a case study of how economies can benefit from the revival of nature and biodiversity.
Against a backdrop of the most significant and ambitious commitment to forests in a generation, we asked countries to commit to radical action on nature, food, and farming and help people adapt to the impacts of climate change. Of course, land can be a great source of emissions, or a great carbon sink, depending on how we manage it.
We have secured a consensus around a number of key actions contained in a new roadmap around the sustainable commodities trade, which will put the world on a pathway to ensure that the link between deforestation and the production and trade of agricultural commodities does not put pressure to forests. We have already seen 28 governments endorse a statement committing to deliver this.
It is something that I have been working on for the last eighteen months since the UK has co-chaired the dialogue with Indonesia. We’ve had the open and honest conversations needed with countries that represent over 90% of global exports of palm oil, 80% of cocoa and 85% of soya – as well as the major consumer markets of these commodities.
It is encouraging that we are seeing countries committing to transform agriculture and food systems.  We have also seen countries coming forward to make other commitments with 90 per cent of the world’s economy now committed to getting to “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century.  As the Prime Minister said earlier this week, we will have a chance to end humanity’s long history as nature’s conqueror, and instead, become its custodian. Let’s hope that a final agreement offers some good progress.

Second Homes in Cornwall

Last week the Government announced a new policy to deal with the problem of second homeowners classifying their property as a holiday let in...