The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan: Not Far Enough?
The Tory government has finally released its long-awaited 25 year environment plan or ‘Green Plan’, claiming that they will be “the first generation to leave a better environment than we inherited it.” But does this ambitious plan really live up to its promises? Does it really deliver? Campaigners are doubtful, believing that this plan lacks actual policies to be able to achieve many of its ambitious aims and objectives.
Whilst it does contain some promising initiatives and the potential to provide a solid framework for positive change, the lack of policies – and the practicalities of those that have been outlined – have been called into question by experts and campaigners alike. Among the criticisms is the lack of immediate action posed. Take for example the proposal to stop all avoidable waste by 2042; not only has Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and several campaign groups criticised it as being ‘too long’ but the only immediate step to be put into place towards achieving this goal was to extend the 5p plastic bag to all shops and not just those who met the previous set criteria. This has already been implemented in Wales and Scotland. Other proposed ideas such as urging supermarkets to create aisles without any plastic packaging are still to be consulted on before any sort of action will be implemented.
Other areas that the plan covers include climate change, poor soil conditions, poor air quality, encouraging the younger generation get more involved in nature by creating ‘nature friendly schools’ and delivering a ‘Green Brexit’. One of the most ambitious ideas set out in this plan is the creation of a 120-mile northern forest which stretches between Liverpool and Hull. The plan recognises that roughly 17,000 hectres of land is lost to new developments in a year and establishing a total of 500,000 extra hectres of habitat across the environment should help with the damage that has already been done by development, and the damage that will be done by it in the future. Not only will more land be dedicated to establishing and preserving habitats but efforts will be made to ‘link’ these habitats across the country to help encourage larger and more diverse environments, a difficult feat when considering the number of roads and other developments in place.
There is no doubt that this is good news and campaigners have embraced this step in the right direction. This is the first time in 15 years that a Prime Minister has delivered a ‘green’ speech and demonstrates increasing interest in protecting our environment. However there is additional concern that this plan is all talk, and without the radical changes and more resource – additional funding and a new environmental watch dog for example – none of these ambitious targets will ever be realised. Environment Secretary Michael Gove has promised to consult on creating a new watchdog, a resource campaigners see as a necessity for when the UK eventually leaves the European Union as currently the majority of green issues are regulated by the EU. This will have an especially large impact on the areas of agriculture and fisheries management within the UK.
Stretching across 25 years this plan gives itself plenty of time to become irrelevant or superseded by more ‘pressing’ issues before any real action needs to be taken, a concern that campaigners have picked up on, demanding more immediate solutions be considered. Another criticism surrounds the amount of responsibility put on consumers rather than producers, criticism that Teresa May refuted when talking to the media following a speech at the London Wetlands Centre in Barnes.
Much is being said about areas of concern that the plan fails to consider such as fracking, failure to support a ‘deposit’ scheme for plastic bottles, fossil fuel usage and recovering falling recycling rates. Naturally people are unsure as to whether this plan will amount to any significant change – the Tory government is not known for having a great track record when it comes to environmental issues. Whilst the majority will agree this is a good first step, the plans lack of practical substance and lack immediate impact is concerning for many. Only time will tell whether the Government can live up to these promises.
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