Proposed programme

08.30am    Registration
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 energy markets
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 is particularly affected by leaving the European Union. Currently over half of farmers' income derives from subsidies they receive as part of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. While the Government has guaranteed this funding out to 2020, it is not clear yet what will take its place. The Farming Minister George Eustice MP has suggested the improving agricultural productivity and improving the natural environment will be key priorities for future policies.

But 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 reduce 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. 

Key questions:

  • Should agricultural subsidies continue being paid to farmers post-Brexit and, if so, what should be the priorities for funding?
  • 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?

Suggested speakers: Neil Parish MP (Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee), Baroness McIntosh (Former Chair of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee), Meurig Raymond (President, National Farmers Union), Sir Jim Paice (Former Environment Minister)

2.    Strengthening energy markets

The need to tackle climate change has forced major changes to energy markets. But spurred in part by the climate imperative, innovation of clean technology is now being driven by steep falling costs. Some policy interventions, however, intended to encourage new clean energy, have weakened the market dynamics in this important economics  

Carbon pricing can give a clear signal to the market to adopt low carbon energy and to properly account for the environmental externalities of polluting fossil fuels. Despite the fact demand-side flexibility and energy efficiency improvements are some of the most cost-effective ways to save emissions, policymakers do not focus enough attention on their environmental benefits. Capacity auctions have successfully driven down the cost of clean energy technologies, with a recent auction in Chile delivering the world's cheapest ever solar farm.

Key questions:

  • 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?

Suggested speakers: James Heappey MP (Former Energy and Climate Change select committee), Michael Liebreich (Founder, Bloomberg New Energy Finance), Juliet Davenport (CEO, Good Energy), Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (International Business Editor, Daily Telegraph), Lord Barker (Former Energy and Climate Change Minister), Charles Hendry (Former Energy Minister), Laura Sandys (Former Conservative MP), Dan Byles (Former Conservative MP), Tara Singh (Former No.10 Special Adviser)

3.    Rethinking conservation

There are multiple threats to the global natural environment. While climate change is a major issue for the natural environment, particularly in combination with other threats, it is not the sole challenge. For instance, every year since 1990, an average of 13 million hectares of forest has been cut down. And, in the last 40 years, there has been a 52% decline in species population. 

The growing rewilding movement seeks to restore 'original' eco-systems, where they have been degraded through human activity. This has created tension between nature conservationists and champions of efficient agriculture. There has been a global movement to designate new marine reserves, including the British Government’s work on establishing a ‘Blue Belt’ around its overseas territories. But, to deliver tangible improvements to the marine environment, they need proper enforcement and resourcing. In the UK, the Government has championed natural capital as a way of integrating the value of the natural environment into economic decision-making. 

Key questions:

  • Should conservatives support rewilding to restore ecosystems?
  • How can conservation policy be better aligned with overseas development?
  • What does a distinctively conservative approach to tackling illegal wildlife trade looks like?
  • Do marine reserves enhance the marine environment, and how can they be made more effective?
  • Is natural capital a useful framework to encourage investment into natural conservation measures?

Suggested speakers: Sir Roger Scruton (Philosopher), Rebecca Pow MP (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee), Zac Goldsmith (Former Conservative MP), Matthew Paris (Journalist), Dieter Helm (Chair, Natural Capital Committee), Dame Caroline Spelman MP (Former Environment Secretary), Sir John Randall (Former Conservative MP)