"THIS week I have been up in Manchester for Conservative Conference; it will almost certainly be the last one before the next General Election and is an important opportunity for the Government to outline how our long-term decisions now will deliver a brighter future for the whole country.

"I’ve been busy at Conservative Party Conference this week, speaking on back-to-back panels largely focused on how much positive work we’ve been doing as a country on protecting and enhancing the environment. Issues have included reduce, reuse, recycle, as well as access to green spaces and decarbonising rural homes and businesses.

"I also attended an excellent event with the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, highlighting how the UK is a world leader on animal welfare. The UK is the highest ranked G7 nation on the Animal Protection Index and is a joint world leader. We are a nation of animal lovers, and animal welfare has been a priority for the Government since 2010. Building upon our record of improvements since then, we published an ambitious and comprehensive Action Plan for Animal Welfare in May 2021. Since then, we have delivered four key manifesto commitments: enshrining in law that all vertebrate animals, decapod crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs are sentient beings; introduced tougher sentences for animal cruelty increasing from six months to five years; legislated to make cat microchipping compulsory; and recently announced that, having brought the Ivory Act into force, it will be extended to cover five endangered species. Importantly, the Government remain fully committed to delivering our manifesto commitments and will be taking forward the measures in the Kept Animals Bill individually during the remainder of the Parliament.

"One of the main issues that has dominated this conference for me is how we deliver net-zero by 2050 and demonstrate consistency in our approach to protecting our natural environment. For me this is vitally important because as many of you will already know I am a committed and dedicated environmentalist. The effects of climate change through floods and wildfires are becoming more apparent as the years pass and it is also essential for our national security that we reduce our dependence on oil and gas in the decades ahead.

"However, we need a credible plan to actually achieve net-zero by 2050 and one that brings people with us, not forcing a change in the high levels of public support that we have seen. We will still reach net-zero by 2050. This goal hasn’t changed. The UK is ahead of the game already — as a country, we’ve cut carbon emissions by nearly 50 per cent since 1990, faster than any other G7 country. So, we have the space to make sure the transition to Net Zero doesn’t hurt businesses, jobs or families struggling with the cost of living. Despite some of the criticism the PM has received from some quarters, the Prime Minister is ultimately right to review the path we are on. The decisions he has taken make it more likely that we will achieve Net Zero by 2050, rather than less likely."