Theresa May Launches Government’s 25 Year Environmental Plan
This morning, the Prime Minister launched the Government’s 25 Year Environmental Plan, pledging to eradicate ‘avoidable’ plastic waste in the UK by 2042. The Prime Minister stated in her speech that plastic was one of “the great environmental scourges of our time”, adding that, “In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls.” She suggested that the decision to leave the EU had created an historic opportunity to review environmental policies in the UK, emphasising her aim to use this opportunity to “strengthen and enhance our environmental protections – not weaken them”.
The Prime Minister set out several policy announcements in her speech, including:
- the extension of the 5p charge for plastic carrier bags to all retailers in England;
- £7bn funding boost for plastics innovation;
- taxes and charges considered for single use plastic items, such as takeaway containers;
- and, an initiative to work with supermarkets to introduce ‘plastic-free’ aisles.
Plans to help developing nations tackle pollution and plastic waste were also elaborated, alongside the proposed extension of the Blue Belt programme to the UK’s Overseas Territories.
The Prime Minister also paid tribute to Michael Gove MP and his team for, “the energy and enthusiasm they have brought to [the Plan]”. This comes as we enter Gove’s seventh month as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Michael Gove has said that he wants the government to “set the global gold standard” on the environment, adding that ministers were considering the proposal of the Environmental Audit Committee for a 25p charge on disposable cups.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Opposition, urged the Government to act more swiftly to tackle “throw-away” culture, suggesting that 25 years was “far too long” a timescale. This sentiment was echoed the comments from Sue Hayman MP, Shadow Environment Secretary, who said that the plan was “years behind schedule” branding it “a cynical attempt at rebranding the Tories image”. She added that the Conservatives have a record of “failure and broken promises” on the environment.
Environmental campaigners broadly welcomed the outline of the proposals but suggested that they lacked detail and urgency. Louise Edge, Senior Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace, stated that “Encouraging more water fountains, extending charges on plastic bags and funding for innovation can all be part of the solution, but the overall plastics plan lacks urgency, detail and bite.” Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth, said that they welcomed any moves to restore the natural world, including landscapes and wildlife; however, “with the nation facing an accelerating environmental crisis we can’t afford to wait a quarter of a century for urgent action to tackle the issues that already threaten our lives, health and planet.”
The Government’s 25 year environmental plan has six core areas of focus which are set out in brief below:
1. Using and Managing Land Sustainably
- Introduction of environmental net gain principle for built environment
- Reform of how land management is incentivised
- Provisions for soil, woodlands, flooding and coastal erosion
2. Recovering Nature and Enhancing the Beauty of Landscapes
- Development of a Nature Recovery Network to protect and restore wildlife
- Review of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural beauty (AONBs) for the 21st Century
3. Connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing
- Focus on the use of green spaces for people’s health and wellbeing
- One million urban trees to be planted, and additional focus on green infrastructure
- Engagement of young people with nature
4. Increasing resource efficiency, and reducing pollution and waste
- More efficient use of resources, including encouraging reuse, remanufacturing and recycling
- Elimination of all avoidable waste by 2050 and all avoidable plastic waste by 2042
- Emphasis on Clean Air Strategy
5. Securing clean, productive and biologically diverse seas and oceans.
- Implementation of a sustainable fisheries policy after leaving Common Fisheries Policy (signalling a shift away from a number of EU member states who have sought a continuation of UK inclusion in the CFP)
6. Protecting the Global Environment
- Global leadership in tackling climate change and protecting biodiversity
- Assistance of other nations with disaster planning, the protection forests and sustainable agriculture
- Smaller environmental footprint and zero deforestation supply chains