The government’s new 25-year environment plan has been criticised for delaying ‘hard questions’.
The prime minister launched the new plan with a speech today at the London Wetland Centre in Barnes.
It contains a number of new commitments, including a pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic by extending the 5p plastic bag charge to small retailers and working with supermarkets to create ‘plastic-free aisles’.
The strategy also promises that the government will work with the water industry to increase the number of water fountains around the country.
The government will also launch a consultation on a new watchdog, which will be responsible for environmental standards, agriculture and fisheries management.
The document also promises to create 500,000 hectares of habitat for endangered species and provide £5.7m to kick-start the recently announced Northern Forest.
And the government claims ‘in a world first’, the plan will also set out how ministers will use a ‘natural capital approach’ to create additional benefits, such as health and wellbeing, in every part of the environment.
‘Our goal is a healthy and beautiful natural environment which we can all enjoy, and which we can be proud to pass on to the next generation,’ said the prime minister.
‘Delays answering the hard questions’
Responding to May’s speech, the chair of the environmental audit committee, Mary Creagh said the new 25-year plan ‘delays answering the hard questions over how to tackle plastic pollution and fails to provide any legal basis for its ambitions for the environment’.
‘We cannot wait until 2042 to see action to reduce plastic waste. My committee has called for a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, and for disposable coffee cups to be made recyclable by 2023, or banned if they are not,’ she added.
‘EU laws protect our treasured natural spaces and iconic British species, but my committee has warned they risk becoming zombie legislation after the UK leaves the EU.’
The president of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), Simon Neilson, welcomed the prime minister’s commitment to protecting and improving the environment.
‘We are pleased that the government is recognising the links between the Industrial Strategy, the environment and the economy, and how complementary approaches are intrinsic to future-proofing our economy alongside health and wellbeing.
‘However, the plan is a collection of policy statements when what is needed is urgency, detail and the political commitment that puts in place the right regulatory and legislative frameworks to ensure these policies are delivered.’
Natural environment recovery network
The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), welcomed the plans commitment to create natural environment recovery network across England, which will link existing protected sites and landscapes to green and blue infrastructure in towns and cities.
This will bring together funding from a range of sources to deliver multiple benefits at the landscape and catchment scale.
The chief executive of CIWEM, Terry Fuller said the new plan recognised the risk from ‘concreting over gardens and other green spaces’.
‘It acknowledges that we need to build more homes in an environmentally sensitive way, designed with pressures such as flooding and climate change in mind,’ he said.
‘We’re delighted that the government has taken on board CIWEM’s recommendations on sustainable drainage and look forward to help achieve its ambitions.’
And the chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage, Hugo Tagholm, welcomed the plan’s commitment for plastic-free coastlines.
‘The government must act immediately to introduce even more ambitious legislation to drive manufacturers away from their love affair with single-use plastics and create a new, truly sustainable products and packaging,’ he said.
‘The UK is crying out for a bottle refund system to prevent plastic bottle pollution in our streets, countryside and oceans. Millions of plastic bottles pollute are currently pollution our oceans every year.
‘The government has the power to legislate for this immediately, alongside other legislation to drive business investment in plastic free products and systems, and more effective domestic recycling infrastructure.’