Our shared oceans are a vital resource and provide habitats for precious marine life, as well as supporting the livelihoods of one in every ten people worldwide, and it is only right that we work to protect them for future generations. This is a commitment that I share along with so many of my Mid Sussex constituents.
As you are aware, the Government has announced its support for a moratorium on the granting of exploitation licences for deep sea mining projects. My ministerial colleagues and I are concerned about the growing pressure to extract deep-sea resources and its potential impacts. The UK Government will not, therefore, sponsor or support the issuing of any such licences for deep sea mining by the International Seabed Authority until there is sufficient scientific evidence about the potential impact on deep sea ecosystems.
The Government is committed to protecting at least 30 per cent of the global ocean by 2030 through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECAMs) and driven this forward through UK-chaired Global Ocean Alliance. In addition, Ministers have supported developing countries to protect the marine environment through projects to protect and restore habitats such as mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrasses through the £500 million Blue Planet Fund.
Domestically, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has created 178 MPAs across 35,000 square miles of English waters, with a commitment for 70 per cent of designated features to be in a favourable condition by 2042. The first three Highly Protected Marine areas in English waters have been designated, enabling nature to fully recover by removing all harmful activities including fishing, construction and dredging; increasing marine biodiversity; and supporting climate-resilient ecosystems.
While working hard to drive down demand for fossil fuels, however, there will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas over the coming years, as recognised by the independent Climate Change Committee, with the UK as net importers of both oil and gas.
Analysis shows that domestic gas production is on average almost four times cleaner than the process of producing and importing gas in liquified natural gas form. New licences slow the decline in UK oil and gas production and boost the UK's energy security. I am assured by my ministerial colleagues that the UK remains on track to meet net zero by 2050.
The environmental impact of all proposed offshore oil and gas developments are considered by the relevant regulator throughout the approval process which includes a detailed environmental impact assessment process and an extensive consultation with comment invited on the proposals from several statutory nature conservation bodies.
More widely, Defra and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero work closely together to achieve net zero and protect the marine environment.