09.00am Introduction from Ryan Shorthouse
09.10am Keynote speech from Nick Hurd MP
09.30am Q&A session
09.45am Panel discussion one: The future of agriculture
10.45am Coffee break
11.15am Keynote speech from Lord Deben
11.30pm Panel discussion two: Strengthening the energy market
12.30pm Panel discussion three: Rethinking conservation
13.30pm Networking lunch
14.30pm Conference ends
Proposed panel discussions
1. The future of agriculture
The agricultural sector in the UK will be particularly affected by the UK leaving the EU. After Brexit, there will be an opportunity to reform farm subsidies, which as part of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy currently provide over half of farmers' income, redirecting funds to ecosystem services like natural flood management. And there will be other impacts, besides changes to subsidies. On the one hand, there could be a possible reduction in seasonal migrant labour and increases in export tariffs for trade to the EU. On the other, there could be the opportunity to reform controversial regulations such as the three-crop rule and the ban on GM crops. In addition to these Brexit-related changes, farming practices are being modernised by increased digitalisation, facilitated by the roll-out of superfast rural broadband, and new agricultural technology, offering significant potential productivity gains.
- Should agricultural subsidies continue being paid to farmers post-Brexit?
- How can farmers be incentivised to provide ecosystem services, such as tree planting?
- How can the Government use skills and infrastructure policy to boost the agricultural sector?
- What are the opportunities from Brexit for the farming industry?
- How can the Government encourage more exports from the agricultural sector?
2. Strengthening the energy market
The need to tackle climate change has forced major changes in the energy market, reversing some of the reforms of then Energy Secretary Nigel Lawson when he privatised the industry in the 1980s. Some of the policy interventions to enable the necessary rapid deployment of clean energy capacity have weakened the role of markets in the energy sector, introducing distorting subsidies and regulation. But as clean energy deployment becomes driven more by innovation and falling costs, subsidies should be phased out and more market-based solutions could be adopted, such as effective carbon pricing and technology-neutral capacity auctions.
- How effective are carbon taxes and cap-and-trade schemes at encouraging investment in clean energy?
- Should the government offer taxpayer- or billpayer-funded subsidies to stimulate the early market for clean technologies?
- How can the government ensure a level playing field for both demand-side and supply-side measures for decarbonisation?
- Do auctions enable governments to avoid 'picking winners' in the energy sector?
- How can the UK ensure it is a global leader in selling low-carbon products and services?
3. Rethinking conservation
Conservatives make natural conservationists. From the creation of a ‘Blue Belt’ of marine reserves around some of the UK’s overseas territories, to the ban on the modern ivory trade, to its pledge to plant 11 million trees in this Parliament, the Conservative Governments since 2010 have made some good progress in this area. However, these are too often isolated successes which fail to join up the work of different government departments. Further improvements are possible, from encouraging more sustainable livelihoods for local fishermen in marine reserves, to doing more to tackle Britain’s role in global supply chains for illegal wildlife. There is also concern that departing the EU threatens the conservation of Britain’s natural environment through political pressure to weaken environmental protections.
- What are the benefits of forestry, and how can coverage be increased in the UK?
- How should conservatives approach tackling the illegal wildlife trade?
- How can marine reserves be made more effective at protecting the marine environment?
- Is natural capital a useful framework to drive conservation?
- Should conservatives support rewilding to reverse the decline in biodiversity?