WILDLIFE AND COUNTRYSIDE LINK
The Prime Minister's commitments on the environment and the UK Government's long awaited 25 Year Environment Plan have been welcomed by a coalition of 31 organisations represented by Wildlife and Countryside Link. The plan covers England and the UK's international environmental commitments. The environment and animal welfare organisations support the scope of the plan and the UK Government's ambition to restore nature in a generation.
Particularly welcome are Government moves to establish a new watchdog to monitor environmental outcomes, to give the environment a voice and uphold environmental standards as we leave the EU. This should be given real teeth, to rival those of the EU's Commission and the Courts. The charities are also encouraged by the emphasis the Government will place on science and evidence to inform the Plan, and its recognition that the environment benefits both people's health and wellbeing and the economy.
The coalition is pleased the UK Government has listened to its calls and responded with promises on:
· Targets for wildlife, water, and air, at least as strong as EU targets, are to be delivered
· The 'polluter pays' and 'public money for public goods' principles guiding future farming policy - so reforms should finally reward farmers who invest in nature
· Sustainable drainage to make cities safer from floods - with new planning guidelines
· Healthcare that takes advantage of green prescriptions - preventative care that can make the most of our "natural health service"
· Nature to be integrated in urban communities— net nature gain targets for new developments
· Commitments on waste reduction and single-use plastics – with plans to be developed
But the coalition has warned that delivering the UK Government's ambition of restoring nature, the environment and landscapes over the next 25 years, will require law on the page, cash in the coffers, and a watchdog with teeth.
Karen Ellis, Acting Director of Science & Policy at WWF-UK said: "We all depend on nature, from the UK and overseas, and letting it decline is causing misery due to ill-health, flooding and pollution. A weakened environment also costs the UK millions of pounds. The UK Government's new 25 Year Environment Plan could be a game-changer, reversing long term declines and making the UK an exemplar for the rest of the world to follow. To achieve that, the Plan will need to be underpinned by strong laws and regulations, and a clear action plan for achieving the goals it sets out."
Dr Richard Benwell, Head of Government Affairs at Wildfowl and Wetland Trust said: "Brexit has cast doubt over the future of the laws, courts and cash that protect nature. Take the wrong path and the UK's environment faces irreparable damage. But the 25 year plan is a big green signpost that Government intends to take nature's way to a greener future. We'll be watching the first steps closely. Before Brexit we need a strong UK environment regulator and green trade guarantees. Early in this Parliament, we need a powerful new Environment Act to set the plan in law and make sure that future governments stay on track to improve our air, water and wildlife."
Dr Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: "The public is deeply worried about the rapid degradation of our environment and is relying on the Government to take urgent action before it is too late. The 25 Year Plan makes for good reading, but words must be backed up with a decisive and well-resourced road map for delivery that includes clear milestones, evidence-based decision-making and transparent processes for monitoring and reporting on progress. If the UK is to lead the world in protecting the environment and get the environment back on track, it must now enshrine its goals and targets into law."
The coalition said that the UK Government could meet the challenge if the 25 Year Plan is backed up with decisive action and funding. The first test of the 25 Year Plan will be the Agriculture Bill that is expected in the next few months. This should contain clear targets for investing in natural assets like soils and freshwater, aligned with the goals set out in the 25 Year Plan, and the public funding mechanisms to deliver them.
The charities are urging the UK Government to:
· Establish, before Brexit, legally-binding targets for the whole public sector within a new Environment Act in England. To ensure that action is not delayed, and that further environmental damage is avoided
· Ensure sufficient resources to deliver these plans and to fund the new environmental statutory body
· Give the new watchdog responsibility to oversee implementation of the Plan and monitor Government performance against its goals, and the teeth to take enforcement action if the Government falls short
· Work closely with the devolved nations to develop a co-designed and co-owned common framework for the whole of the UK's environment and back this up with long term action plans. This is essential as although much of the plan relates to England only the environment does not respect political borders
· Embed EU environmental protections into UK law in their entirety, including enshrining important environmental principles, such as 'the polluter pays'
· Set out how the private sector will be mobilised to support the delivery of the Plan and secure public involvement by ensuring that there are significant opportunities for new and improved public access and recreation.
The coalition is encouraging the Government to align other new legislation with the goals set out in the Plan, such as the forthcoming Agriculture and Fisheries Bills, and policies such as the Clean Growth Plan and Industrial strategy, to ensure they contribute to the successful delivery of the Environment Plan.
We need a 25-month emergency plan for nature, not a 25-year vision - Greenpeace reaction
Greenpeace UK's executive director John Sauven said: "Britain's natural environment needs a 25-month emergency plan more than it needs a 25-year vision. If the government's aim is to get through to young voters, they need to offer change that happens before these youths turn middle age. They should start by rolling out more robust and swift measures to stop plastic waste harming our oceans, clean up illegal air pollution and support the clean energy sources that can help stop climate change.
"If Theresa May wants to persuade people this is more than just husky-hugging, she needs to put some joined-up thinking at the heart of her strategy. You can't claim to care about climate change and our countryside and then back fracking, or care about the next generation and then let air pollution harming our kids' health.
"The environment is now a mainstream concern in this country, with millions of people caring deeply about it. Theresa May has a unique opportunity to rise to the challenge and make Britain a global leader in environmental protection. She should not waste it."
In response to Tesco announcing their support for Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) for plastic bottles, Louise Edge, Senior Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK said: “It’s great news that Britain’s biggest retailer has come out firmly in support of deposit return schemes.
“The ocean plastic problem is complex and some areas will require innovation, but there is plenty of low hanging fruit, and one of the lowest and ripest is a deposit return scheme (DRS) for bottles. They have been tried and tested across the developed world and they work, increasing the collection rate for plastic bottles up to 96%.
“The public support DRS, at least three of our supermarket chains now support DRS, even Coca Cola support DRS, and the Scottish government have committed to introducing a scheme there. Instead of announcing vague aspirations for 2043, the government should be implementing a DRS right now.”
All The Right Moves, But Needs Teeth to Work: Martin Baxter, IEMA’s Chief Policy Advisor
“The Prime Minister’s speech struck the right chord in making clear connections between the environment to the economy and society, something IEMA has long championed. The plan appears to set out an ambitious vision for leaving the environment in a better pace by eliminating plastic waste, enhancing the natural environment and tackling climate change. The plan’s integration with existing policies and schemes like the Clean Growth Plan, the Industrial Strategy, the UN SDGs and the Paris Accord shows good short- and long-term thinking. We applaud all these moves. However, the plan could be accused of lacking in urgency, and the plan will only have teeth if it’s underpinned by the right legislation and strong governance, yet the Prime Minister made no mention of how the plan will be enforced.”
Plastics and pollution
“The Government seems to have the bit between its teeth on tackling waste plastics. We welcome the proposal to impose a levy on disposable coffee cups and single-use plastics, and the extension on the 5p charge for plastic bags for small retailers is absolutely the right move. It’s now critically important that action begins right away to ensure this isn’t a case of “green sheen” to win over young voters but builds on Blue Planet II’s impact to create positive and lasting change at scale.
“Government has promised a Green Brexit, with the UK free to take the best from Brussels and build on this to create a world leading green economy and environment. This is the right ambition, setting us apart from a race to the bottom that would only end badly for the UK. Today the Prime Minister clearly stated that her ambition is that the UK will retain its global leadership on restoring, enhancing and protecting the environment throughout and beyond the Brexit process. This is crucial, as we need to maintain all momentum on decarbonisation and building our natural capital. The proposed consultations on creating the right policies and legislation are welcome, and IEMA and our members will be actively involved in shaping what happens next.”
Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF, said: “It’s great to hear the Prime Minister speaking today about the much needed action to protect our environment. I sincerely hope that the Government’s 25 year plan marks a turning point when we start restoring our environment rather than destroying it.
“Urgent action is needed on plastic pollution, dirty air, changes to our climate and protecting our precious natural heritage, here in the UK and around the world. But these commitments will only become a reality if they are backed by the force of law, money and a new environmental watchdog.”
“The tidal wave of coffee cup, plastic bottle and other plastic waste needs action now. We want to see an end of single use plastics by 2025. If we wait until 2042 we’ll see more plastic than fish in our oceans.
"We urgently need to stop things like plastic wrapped cucumbers and coconuts, ban cling film and straws and help consumers reduce plastic consumption where it is clearly unnecessary.”
Robbie Staniforth, policy manager at Ecosurety, says. “We welcome any report that throws the spotlight on the damage being done to the UK’s environment, but we want to see a higher involvement with industry to ensure the UK does not drown in a sea of collected plastic it cannot deal with. The UK collects millions of tonnes of plastic every year, but that plastic is exported abroad for recycling. We believe this is hugely dysfunctional, with the problem only coming to light because China has refused to recycle the bulk of our plastic waste.
“Ecosurety wants to see wholescale reform of the waste and recycling chain in a way that incentivises UK waste companies to come up with innovative solutions for the country’s waste. Anything short of this will not resolve the bigger picture.
“The real problem is getting UK businesses to invest in recycling infrastructure so we can create internal markets for its own waste. We therefore welcome the Government’s plan to accelerate UK R&D into creating more recyclable plastics and agree that £54m over seven years is not nearly enough money if we want to ensure more of the plastic we create is reusable. The only way to deal with plastic properly is to make it as recyclable as possible, and then deal with it ourselves.
“We therefore need better investment in the recycling process that creates a product that we either make into other items, or which is good enough to be sold to other countries for making into new plastic goods. Otherwise, we are just a nation of collectors creating a sea of plastic somewhere in the ocean.”
SUEZ Recycling and Recovery - look beyond plastics to develop a whole life-cycle approach
David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK stated: “We welcome the publication of the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan, which provides a long-awaited direction of travel for our industry after a difficult period of effective policy limbo combined with market volatility.
"It rightly places our environment at the heart of Government strategy and following in the wake of the Industrial Strategy, recognises the importance of sustainable growth to the UK economy post-Brexit.
"The ambition to extend producer responsibility should look beyond plastics to develop a whole life-cycle approach, across a range of materials with good properties for reuse and recycling.
"We have long advocated the importance of data in transitioning to a more circular economy and support the Government’s call for more available data to support industrial symbiosis and more circular approaches. Data will allow us to track material flows which have real value and the flow of resources into and out of the UK.
"Having invested heavily in new facilities to support the move away from landfill over the last decade, we are pleased that this plan recognises the important role energy recovery facilities have played in this transition and the ambition to make these facilities more efficient by identifying ways to increase the use of the heat they produce.
"Overall, the plan represents an important first step towards policies that will support the growth of our industry and enable it to play a pivotal role in the development of a more resource efficient, sustainable economy. Systemic change is needed to tackle the complex issues facing us and ensure co-ordination with national infrastructure plans and the Industrial Strategy. We urge Government to work with our industry on the detail of its new Resources and Waste Strategy to develop a world leading approach for the UK.”
Response from a Dell Senior Vice President - We do not need to make any more plastic
Dayne Turbitt, Senior Vice President, UK&I Enterprise at Dell EMC responds: "We do not need to make any more plastic. Instead we need to encourage everyone to recycle what we’ve already got.
"The Prime Minister’s plan is further progress being made by Government. But more can be done. The plastic pandemic not only negatively impacts our natural world, it is also hindering our economies. In Europe for example, the cost for coastal and beach cleaning is approximately €630 million a year, with the cost to the fishing industry amounting to €60 million, annually.
"It’s not an easy problem to fix and local governments are struggling to find the best way to combat plastic waste. Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden are the amongst the few countries that have successful deposit return schemes (DRS) where 99% of bottles purchased are recycled, yet countries like the UK are still lagging behind unclear as to whether such schemes might undermine existing kerbside programmes.
"As an island nation, we should be putting more emphasis into tackling this issue. That is why earlier this month, we announced the NextWave initiative - a consortium of global companies working together to combat ocean plastics and create the world’s first commercial-scale ocean-bound plastics supply chain.
The plastic crisis is one of the fastest-growing threats to the planet’s ocean ecosystems in our history. Every company, government organisation and individual has a responsibility to take ownership of how their daily choices are impacting the world around them."
British Plastics Federation response
The UK plastics industry shares the objective of minimising plastics waste through maximising recycling. The calls for evidence provide an opportunity to bring about much-needed reform of the regulatory regime currently governing packaging recovery and recycling to nurture a full-blooded domestic recycling culture that is not dependent upon the export of waste for recycling overseas.
The government’s commitment to provide a higher level of funding for plastics innovation is welcome. The UK plastics industry invented the global plastics industry and a whole pipeline of innovations, including the discovery of polyethylene, have made it a leading player in the global plastics industry. However, we are very disturbed that the tone of language used in the speech does not recognise the important benefits that the plastics industry brings to the UK, including 170,000 jobs.
Plastics themselves save energy. They are low carbon materials, crucial in the fight against climate change. Their light weight and durability cuts fuel consumption in vehicles and aircraft and reduces pollution. They provide protection for products and prevent food waste. By encouraging plastic-free aisles, the government is creating an impression that the use of plastics is inherently wrong. Typically, food waste in stores increases by a third without packaging. For example, a wrapped cucumber lasts 14 more days than one that is not. Cutting out plastic packaging for fresh produce will actually harm the environment through increased CO2 emissions because the energy used to produce food is much greater than in the packaging protecting it.
Plastics should not be in the sea and it is right that the UK, alongside other developed nations, should set an example of best practice. As has been pointed out, the vast quantity of plastics in the seas arrive there from the less developed economies of Asia, which have rudimentary waste management systems. Plastics get into the seas by a number of routes and each route needs to be dealt with separately.
To stop plastics entering the sea from the West, the plastics industry would like to see a tougher stance on littering. It is highly doubtful that simply providing alternative materials will actually reduce littering in the UK, as this is an issue of personal behaviour. It should be noted that the types of products that enter the marine environment from the UK tend to be those that have been irresponsibly littered — not packaging materials for fresh produce that are typically consumed at home and then disposed of responsibly.
We look forward to working with government to help the UK progress towards a truly circular economy by helping to reduce littering, significantly increasing recycling infrastructure, ensuring all packaging used for food and drink consumed ‘on the go’ is captured for recycling, encouraging design for recyclability and the use of recycled material in new low carbon products.
The Wildlife Trusts response
Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, says: “The PM’s speech shows that, at last, a Government is seeing how much the environment means to people, not least young people. There are fantastic words and ambitions for land and sea that raise the spirits - but the lack of legal underpinning is a fundamental flaw.
"What is point of gently urging the horticulture sector to phase out the use of peat when for decades it has been plundering the beautiful moors and mosses of the UK and now of Eastern Europe? What hope can we draw from a promise to return wildlife to our land when there could be a change of mood in a few weeks or months’ time? There must be an ambitious Environment Act in the next Parliament or all this is simply the Government saying what the voluntary sector has been saying for a long time. It needs to act.
“It's good to hear that this new plan is, in theory,meant to work across Government departments. In practice though, there is no commitment from the Ministry of Housing that planning permissions will be granted only if there is high quality green infrastructure included, or from the Department of Health to implement green prescribing across the nation. A Nature Recovery Network is certainly essential but it must be in law, and work across urban and rural areas.
“Unless more Governance leadership is shown, our wildlife will continue to decline and with it our mental health as even more people become isolated from the benefits of day to day contact with nature."
Green Alliance response
Shaun Spiers, executive director of Green Alliance, commented: “This was a landmark speech, the first prime ministerial speech on the environment for 17 years.
"There was much to welcome, particularly Theresa May’s determination to be a world leader in protecting the environment, the commitment to set up a strong new environmental watchdog and the promise of action on plastics pollution.
Inevitably, questions remain. While the ambition and sense of direction of the 25 Year Environment Plan launched today are admirable, it is less clear how all its good intentions will be put into effect.
That makes it all the more essential that the government introduces a new Environment Act to underpin its ambitions. We hope to see a commitment to a new Act in the near future.”
Response from ZSL - focus on the throwaway plastic culture
Dr Heather Koldewey of ZSL (Zoological Society of London), which co-founded #OneLess, said: “The throwaway culture is poisoning and choking the ocean and the life dependent upon it, including ours. Single-use plastic water bottles are the iconic ‘flagship species’ of that pollution, utterly unnecessary in a country with ready access to clean water. The Government must take stringent measures to enable a refill culture and tackle all forms of plastic pollution. This show of commitment is a good step towards that.”
Once in the ocean, plastic drink bottles persist for hundreds of years before breaking down and poisoning marine ecosystems. While measures like a plastic bottle deposit scheme are important tools in waste management, plans need to address and curb the use of single-use plastic bottles all together.
The rapidly growing #Oneless movement, which includes businesses and major tourist attractions, is working to reduce the number of single-use plastic water bottles that that are used in London by enabling a ‘refill revolution’ in the city. #OneLess is driving a complete systemic change, by working across a number of different areas including policy, behaviour, infrastructure, design, business models and values. The campaign’s focus is London as an iconic world city that has potential to influence global change. However, #OneLess is also working with the United Nations on removing single-use plastic water bottles from the UN Headquarters in New York City, along with other major international ocean conferences.
The average UK adult uses nearly 175 single-use plastic water bottles each year and plastic drink bottles are one of the most common waste items found on UK beaches.
Grantham Research Institute - Government’s Environment plan ‘offers little more than good intentions’ on resilience to climate change
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: “The Government deserves credit for recognizing the need to consider the environment in the long term. However, this 25 year Plan offers little more than good intentions on the critical issue of making the UK resilient to the current and future impacts of climate change.
"It references climate change adaptation but offers no long term plan. It does not for instance create an ambition to make the UK the most climate-resilient country in the world. It acknowledges that climate change is increasing the risk of flooding but there is no mention, for example, of the increasing risk in the UK of heatwaves and droughts.
"It recognizes that the Government is required to publish an updated National Adaptation Programme in 2018 but this 25 year plan ignores the fact that the Programme must be updated every five years. And critically there is no commitment by the Government to raise public awareness of the risks of climate change impacts in the UK and the options for managing those risks."
Statement from the London Assembly's Chair of the Environment Committee on plastic waste
Chair of the Environment Committee, Leonie Cooper AM, said: “The release of the Government’s plastic strategy is welcome. But we really need action now. At current rates, in 25 years’ time, people in the UK would have used 192.5 billion plastic bottles!
Londoners consume more plastic bottled water per person than anywhere else in England, we have some of the worst recycling rates in the UK and plastic bottles make up 10 per cent of all litter found in the Thames.
In our ‘Bottled Water’ report last year, we found that improving London’s poor recycling rates is an ongoing challenge for the Mayor and boroughs. Deposit Return Schemes have been successfully introduced elsewhere and may offer one way to increase plastic bottle recycling. Government should look at implementing a national scheme and London is keen to run a pilot programme.
Water refill schemes are also important.
So, while we commend the government’s ideas – we push for more speed to implement solutions to an urgent problem that is getting worse by the day.”
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew response
Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew said: “The 25-year plan is a truly significant moment for the environment. It could lead to a transformation in the way we think about the world around us, in which we adopt a much more holistic approach. Instead of just focusing on land use for farming or industry, treating the environment as a resource to be exploited, it becomes an asset to be invested in and enhanced for everyone’s benefit.
The Northern Forest plan announced this week is a tremendous first step to making this plan a reality. It shows scale and ambition in designing something that would bring nature and people together, leading to multiple benefits that are felt by everyone who lives close to it.
Critical to its success will be choosing which species of tree are planted, and the origin of those trees, so they bring the maximum benefits in terms of biodiversity, carbon drawdown, soil stability and clean water, as well as understanding the balance between native and non-native, rare and endemic species. We would be delighted to work with the Woodland Trust, Defra and other partners to help address this.”
Friends of the Earth - Action needed now to tackle toxic air and climate-wrecking pollution
Friends of the Earth’s CEO Craig Bennett who attended the Prime Minister’s speech and launch of the government’s 25 year environment plan said: “A long-term vison for protecting our environment is essential, but the government can’t keep turning a blind eye to the urgent action needed now to protect our health and planet from toxic air and climate-wrecking pollution.
“It’s time to stop tinkering at the margins and get to the heart of the problems - especially the nation’s fossil fuels addiction.
“Ministers must pull the plug on coal, gas and oil, end its support for fracking and develop the UK’s huge renewable power potential.
“25 years is a long way off – particularly for a government that might not last 25 weeks. We need action now.”
Commenting on the government’s pledge to end avoidable plastic waste in 25 years, Friends of the Earth waste campaigner Julian Kirby said: “If it’s avoidable waste, why is it taking us a quarter of a century to get there? The government – and Mr. Gove in particular – have made bold statements about ending plastic pollution, but so far their record doesn’t match the rhetoric.
“Under the Conservative’s, English recycling rates have stalled and we’re burning ever more recyclable waste, even though in 2010 they committed to a ‘zero waste economy’.
“Plastic pollution is toxic for life and must be stopped at source - governments must act now to ensure the firms responsible for creating this plastic mess take responsibility clearing it up and preventing it.”
ESA welcomes 25 year plan but action still needed to increase demand for recycled material
The Environmental Services Association (ESA) welcomed the long-awaited publication of the 25 Year Environment Plan, but wants to see more action to stimulate the demand for recycled material.
ESA’s Executive Director Jacob Hayler said: “The 25 Year Environment Plan provides some much-needed encouragement to our industry that the Government is finally taking seriously both the challenges and opportunities in managing the UK’s resources. We welcome the ambitions to double resource efficiency and eliminate avoidable waste by 2050. This will require the concerted effort of the whole supply chain along with policy makers, and the waste and recycling industry is ready to play its part.
“In particular, we are pleased that the Government has listened to our calls to reform the PRN system. However, many of the measures it outlines are too focused on consumers. A truly circular economy will only come about when there is a strong demand for recycled materials. If the Government wants to do more than tinker at the edges of recycling policy, it must act decisively to promote UK markets for recycled materials.
“We also need to think carefully about the waste that remains once efforts to recycle have been exhausted. This will require a robust strategy for residual waste, which must send out positive signals about the role of Energy from Waste and the urgent need for investment in new facilities. We now look to Defra’s forthcoming Resource and Waste to provide a more holistic approach.”
University of East Anglia - elephant in the room is Brexit
Professor Andrew Jordan, from the University of East Anglia, said: "The big elephant in the room is of course Brexit. It only receives four mentions in the entire Plan, yet is the main reason why it was brought down off the shelf and was published today.
"First of all, there is a marked lack of governance capacity to deliver on new policy pledges. DEFRA is one of the smallest Whitehall departments and has lost 5000 staff in cuts since 2010. It lacks experience in developing major new pieces of legislation. Last month's National Audit Office report revealed that most of its energies are being devoted to administering Brexit. Many civil servants are highly committed, but formulating and securing political agreement on lots of new policies to implement this new 25 Year Plan will be a huge ask for such a beleagured department.
"Second, the Plan skirts around the well established fact that most of the environmental progress made by the UK in the last 40 years, is down to policies and laws formulated by the European Commission and enforced by the European Court of Justice. In her speech, Mrs May pledged to consult on a new independent regulator to fulfil some of these functions and publish a statement of environmental principles, but until these are adopted it is uncertain whether the existing framework of EU derived laws will continue to underpin environmental progress after Brexit."
25 Year Environment Plan could deliver benefits to National Parks
Campaign for National Parks welcomes the Westminster Government’s renewed focus on the state of the environment and hopes today’s launch of the 25 Year Environment Plan will lead to stronger protection for, and improvements in, our National Parks.
Chief executive of Campaign for National Parks, Fiona Howie said: “National Parks are a national asset, providing space for wildlife, cultural heritage, recreation and spiritual wellbeing. I am pleased to see plans to enhance the quality of the landscapes and increase the amount of young people accessing National Parks. We believe that there are huge benefits to the wellbeing of everyone as a result of access to our most beautiful landscapes. But this needs to be made possible without damaging the special qualities of these places.”
Proposals for National Parks include:
· A review of National Parks for the 21st century. This will look at how designated landscapes meet their responsibilities, how they are financed and scope for expansion.
· Working with National Park Authorities to continue to deliver the 8-Point Plan for National Parks 2016-2020.
· Aims to double the 60,000 young people a year engaging with National Park Authorities.
· Working to improve the environment of National Parks including the beauty of the landscape.
In her speech today the Prime Minister also gave assurances that environmental protections will not weaken following the UK’s exit from the European Union. Campaign for National Parks wants to see this commitment reflected in legislation.
“As the Prime Minister said in her speech, improving the health and diversity of our natural environment for future generations is crucial. The National Parks should have a key role to play in achieving this and we hope the review is a chance for government to identify opportunities to make the Parks more accessible, more beautiful and better protected," Fiona concluded.
Renewable Energy Association - Environment Plan a positive step but further action needed
Commenting on the Plan, Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive of the REA said: “We welcome the Government’s ambitions laid out here today and believe that the UK’s compostable plastics industry can help the Prime Minister address many of the urgent issues raised in this Plan. There are numerous products that are manufactured in the UK, ranging from coffee cups to carrier bags, that can reduce the non-biodegradable materials polluting our oceans and our countryside.
“Anaerobic digestion and composting can support Government ambitions in relation to soil health by encouraging the cultivation of break crops and the production of digestate and compost, which acts as an organic alternative to fossil fuel derived fertilisers and soil improver to restore organic matter in soil.
“One outstanding question is how does Government intend to support local authorities’ waste collection abilities and develop our domestic waste infrastructure? Recycling rates are in decline and food waste collections stalled following years of funding cuts.
“Our discussions indicate a significant ambition within Local Authorities to increase food waste collections and improve recycling collections but many don’t have the up-front capital to take action. We also have a budding advanced energy-from-waste sector which post-Brexit could help us prosper from being waste self-reliant but there is a lack of ambition in Government to help bring such technologies to market.
“The wood heat sector welcomes the ambition to support forest health and growth in the UK, and calls for the Government to consider the planting of short rotation forestry, such as willow, which is shown to improve biodiversity and soil health.
“The renewable fuels industry is encouraged by the Government’s ambition to increase the amount of waste that is turned into biofuel, and looks forward to working with them to grow the sector.”
CIWEM - Delayed plan worth the wait
CIWEM welcomes focus on nature recovery and greening towns and cities in government’s 25 year environment plan. In particular the Institution welcomes the establishment of a 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. This aligns with a recent CIWEM report calling for a greater onus on delivery through an enhanced role for catchment partnerships.
CIWEM chief executive Terry Fuller said: “The government’s 25 year environment plan recognises 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. We’re delighted that the government has taken on board CIWEM’s recommendations on sustainable drainage and look forward to help achieve its ambitions.”
CIWEM director of policy Alastair Chisholm said: “This government is matching its manifesto ambitions for the environment with a welcome set of actions and commitments within the 25 year plan. What sets this apart from previous environmental policies is its long timescale which will allow proper planning for meaningful change and the fact it will be scrutinised by a statutory body. These factors represent a real step forward and we look forward to seeing meaningful progress and recovery of our precious environment as a result.”
CIWEM senior policy adviser Laura Grant said: “With Michael Gove at the helm, the plan has greatly improved on previous drafts with a broader focus on health and young people, mental health and wellbeing, planning and behaviour change. We now need to see that this plan is delivered by the whole of government and not just left to the environment department.”
Buglife welcome plan for pollinators, but urge bring in legislation before Brexit
Buglife welcomes the great intentions of the Government's new 25 Year Environment Plan, particularly in relation to restoring pollinator populations, and urges the Government to bring forward the enabling legislation before BREXIT.
The plan commits not only to stop environmental degradation but to reverse it, recognising that we must value wildlife "for in its own right" as well as its economic importance and acknowledging that a new approach is needed "to agriculture, land use and fisheries which puts the environment first."
For the bugs and bees the most significant commitment in the Plan is to restore wildflower habitats and a 'Nature Recovery Network' involving 500,000 hectares of additional wildlife habitat. Such a programme could help fill Britain's B-Lines with wildflower meadows.
Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife said: "The destruction of 97% of wildflower meadows has left our countryside bereft; it is fantastic news that there will be a serious national mission to restore meadows to the countryside. It is essential for the survival of bees and other insects that we rebuild a functioning network of wildflower corridors across the UK".
The Plan does not duck the issue of pesticide pollution, promising to "significantly reduce....levels of harmful chemicals entering the environment (including from the agriculture sector)", and introduce an "early warning system on chemicals" (in water and more generally), this will require a significant increase in funding for environmental monitoring and science. In more good news the Government will work "internationally to strengthen the standardisation of methods that assess chemical safety".
On neonicotinoids the Government reaffirms its recent change of position, it now supports a wider ban, and clarifies this by adding "Any continuing use should be limited and permitted only where the environmental risks are shown to be very low".
On invasive species there are welcome commitments to develop "plans to reduce the risk from all high priority pathways for invasive non-native species introduction into England." and "to lead the way internationally on tighter biosecurity." Good steps towards limiting the rate of introduction of invasive species in pot plants.
From the perspective of the UK's invertebrates the Plan also promises to:• bring burgeoning light pollution under effective control,
• improve the overall status of threatened species, especially pollinating insects,
• consider introducing conservation covenants that would allow private landowners to secure the wildlife on their land in perpetuity,
and introduce a set of environmental 'outcome indicators' and 'performance measures'.
Of course invertebrates also stand to benefit from reductions in plastic pollution and we would hope the hypothecation of any funds raised by taxing plastics would also contribute to reversing biodiversity declines on land and in water.
Finally on the positive front the plan suggests the reintroduction of the Orange spotted emerald dragonfly, a species that went extinct in the UK in the 1950s when the Hampshire river where it had its last colony was polluted.
There are some disappointing gaps in the plan:
• No commitment for long-term support for the national pollinator monitoring programme, despite a commitment to the long term monitoring of soil health.
• No clear vision for restoring Sites of Special Scientific Interest to good condition.
• The Plan does not establish when or how the environmental targets will be established in law.
• The Plan commits to bring all EU environmental legislation into UK law, including the Environmental Principles that DExEU left out of the Withdrawal Act. However, the plan also says that when managing environmental risks "a high level of certainty will be needed before a decision is made to invest in expensive......technology" – which seems counter to both the precautionary principle and good regulatory practice.
Prime Minister backs Plastic Planet’s Plastic Free Aisle concept
Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she backs the introduction of campaign group A Plastic Planet’s 'Plastic Free Aisle' concept. The group has been calling for the measure since February last year.
Over the last 10 months A Plastic Planet has built a coalition of supporters for a Plastic Free Aisle including former ASDA CEO Andy Clarke and celebrities such as Ben Fogle and Dame Vivienne Westwood.
A Plastic Planet was co-founded last year by Sian Sutherland and Frederikke Magnussen. The pair welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement but stressed that there was still a long way to go, calling on Britain’s supermarkets to follow up with decisive action.
Reacting to the announcement, Sian Sutherland said: “The Prime Minister has recognised that plastic used to package food and drink products is having a devastating effect on the world around us. It is amazing to have her backing our campaign’s single aim: A Plastic Free Aisle in Supermarkets.
“While the Prime Minister is right to back the measure, it's clear that the future of retail has to embrace plastic-free packaging solutions, rather than no packaging at all. A Plastic Free Aisle should showcase the wealth of plastic-free pack options that are emerging all the time. We have to turn off the plastic tap.
Co-founder Frederikke Magnussen said: “We are all part of the problem. We are all Plastic Addicts. It is wonderful to hear the Prime Minister backing what we have been saying all along which is that we can only wean ourselves off our addiction if we are given the choice. A Plastic Free Aisle gives us the ability to together be part of the solution.”
Environment Plan signals new era for England's peatlands
The UK Government signalled a new era for peatlands with a long term commitment to their restoration and protection in its 25 Year Environment Plan. The IUCN UK Peatland Programme has long highlighted the public services provided by healthy peatlands such as clean drinking water, climate change and flood mitigation, and welcomes the recognition of these from UK Government.
We can no longer ignore the loss of these services through damaged peatlands without huge costs to society now and in the future. Investment in conserving and repairing our peatlands and the people who manage them, as well as halting their destruction through extraction for horticultural peat is the right and most cost-effective way forward. The 25 Year Environment Plan brings good news and reassurance to farmers, conservationists and society as a whole by recognising the important benefits of healthy peatlands.
Clifton Bain, Director of IUCN UK Peatland Programme said: "We will work closely with Government to ensure that delivery of this plan results in positive outcomes for peatlands, those that manage them and all of us that rely on them. This requires urgent public and private funding now to avoid the costly consequences of damaged peatlands further down the line."
Dr Rob Stoneman, Chair of IUCN UK Peatland Programme adds: "A move away from the use of peat in horticulture must run alongside our important work to restore and conserve peatlands, so it is important that the Government remains signed up to phasing out peat use altogether by 2030 as stated in today's 25 Year Environment Plan.
"Should voluntary measures not prove successful, it will be necessary to look at statutory measures and regulations, which could include a ban on peat or fiscal measures to ensure the use of peat is more expensive than using peat alternatives. Government commitment to consider these measures, if progress has not been made by 2020, will be essential."
UK peatlands as well as providing important homes for wildlife, are our largest terrestrial store of carbon helping to mitigate impacts of climate change. Yet, the majority are in some way damaged leading to the release of greenhouse gases and preventing them from acting as a natural filter for drinking water, hence increasing the cost of water treatment for customers. Recognition of the important natural capital assets provided by peatlands and support for those who manage peatlands sustainably, will enable a step-change in efforts to avoid the problems of damaged peatlands.
Peatland restoration has long been practised in England, and across the UK, with large-scale projects working with private land managers to achieve impressive results such as in Yorkshire, the Peak District, Exmoor and the East Anglian fens.
These efforts are highly commendable, but need the wider support of a national vision to secure the long-term sustainable management of peatlands across the country. Happily, the 25 Year Environment Plan provides us with the first necessary steps to ensure this vision is realised.
Anaerobic digestion industry welcomes Environment Plan soil health goal
The UK's anaerobic digestion (AD) industry has welcomed a target from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for all of England's soils to be "managed sustainably" by 2030, calling it "an important step in the right direction" towards restoring the UK's soils.
Defra's 25-year environment plan calls for "good nutrient management practices" in soil management and pledges to work with industry "to encourage the use of low emissions fertiliser". It also pledges to create "meaningful metrics" to assess soil improvements and to "develop cost-effective and innovative ways to monitor soil at farm and national level".
Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA), said: "The health of the UK's soils is critical to allowing us to grow the food we need to feed our families. Defra's aim to restore soil sustainability in England is an important step in the right direction, and the AD industry can play a key role in this through producing natural, low-emission biofertiliser in the form of digestate, which is high in vital nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
"The government now needs to provide meaningful incentives for farmers to buy and use biofertilisers that help to restore soils and reduce emissions from agriculture. Providing support for AD plants, which produce these digestate-derived biofertilisers, is therefore essential."
Despite the environment plan covering resource efficiency and waste, there were no new commitments on separate food waste collections, which as many as half of local authorities in England still do not offer to residents. AD plants recycle unavoidable and inedible food waste into renewable heat and power, low-carbon transport fuel, and biofertiliser, and have the potential to meet 30% of the UK's domestic gas or electricity demand. Evidence from Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, which all have mandatory food waste collections, also shows that households and businesses that separate food waste tend to produce less waste due to greater awareness.
Government's 25-year Green Plan is a good start but needs substance
The Recycling Association has welcomed the launch of the Government's 25-year Environment Plan but would like to be assured that this will be backed up by supportive policies to ensure it is delivered.
"When it comes to the recycling, resources and waste elements of this plan, we've been talking about driving improvements for many years," said The Recycling Association's chief executive, Simon Ellin.
"It's good that there now appears to be an understanding of the challenges and a desire to tackle them. But having a vision will not suffice. We need real and positive momentum to drive change.
"For this reason, we will continue to put pressure on the complete recycling supply chain to look for new solutions and do things differently. And that includes government."
Simon Ellin applauded the commitment in the Prime Minister's speech to fund research and development into new materials and recycling innovations. He also pointed to the detail within the plan which shows that Government has taken on board some of the challenges faced by the recycling sector.
"We are encouraged to see the following passage in the plan: We are committed to supporting comprehensive and frequent waste and recycling collections which protect local amenity and ensure that products are recycled as much as possible, returning high quality materials back to the economy. This will help stimulate internal UK markets and support strong secondary materials markets as well as exports abroad.
"The reference to quality here is critical, as is the stimulation of UK markets. It is essential that the 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy reflects these aspects," he said.
"This is true for all materials, not just plastics. Putting quality at the heart of the supply chain will provide clarity in terms of packaging design, collections infrastructure, recycling solutions and ultimately secondary materials markets.
"We're ready for those discussions and the resulting actions now."
Response from forestry trade body, Confor
Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of forestry trade body Confor, said: "It's great to see forestry at the heart of Government thinking and to see its triple environmental, economic and social benefits recognised.
"The renewed commitment to tree planting is welcome, to deliver the timber needed to support a £2 billion industry providing more than 80,000 jobs.
"However, planting in England is at a modern-day low and we must increase it quickly. In Scotland, the appointment of a former Chief Planner to look at the bureaucratic barriers to planting has had a very positive impact and I'm pleased to see Confor's idea of carrying out a similar exercise in England will be taken forward. It is vital the right person os entrusted with this key role.
"The commitment to use more home-grown timber in domestic construction is very welcome. The UK is the second-largest net importer of wood products in the world after China - a shameful state of affairs we must address.
"The new Tree Champion must understand the value of trees to our economy as well as our environment and communities, and encourage the planting of productive species to reduce our long-term reliance on importing wood from fragile global forests.
"Overall, this is a positive strategy for forestry and promises much. The challenge is to make rapid, effective progress. Confor looks forward to working closely with the government and its agencies to deliver on the potential of the strategy."
Commentary by Nick Oettinger, Managing Director of The Furniture Recycling Group
“The government’s 25 year environment plan simply puts a sticking plaster on what is a much larger, long-term issue. The government has allowed the media and production companies to lead the green agenda, today crediting both the Daily Mail and Blue Planet for highlighting our environmental issues.
"The government needs to take a real hold of this. They need to go much further, targeting additional areas of waste and tackling the problem at the source by placing more onus on manufacturers to consider recycling at design stages. Developing more producer responsibility schemes, which will see accountability formalised, would represent a huge step towards the circular economy.
“Whereas May’s pledge to reduce plastic waste is a welcomed step in the right direction, it’s merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of tackling the very real issue of non-biodegradable waste that blights the UK.
“If the government sought input directly from people at the coalface of the waste industry, who are tackling these issues daily, then maybe the environmental proposal would be sensible, achievable and also have the backing of industry. There’s an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise in this sector and I know that myself and my colleagues/peers would welcome the government utilising our resources to help tackle this very real issue."
Response from ecological consultancy EPR
Ben Kite, Managing Director of ecological consultancy, EPR, said: "There is potentially much to praise about the 25-year Environment Plan. It offers a smorgasbord of good ideas and outlines many positive aspirations.
"The introduction of an 'environmental net gain' principle to cover both housing and infrastructure is welcome, and happily, the Plan also draws a vital connection between the health of the economy and of the natural environment. At last, we can see a clear recognition in policy that better access to healthy natural spaces and the delivery of high-quality Green Infrastructure with new development is good for both physical and mental health and wellbeing.
"To capitalise on the innovative nature of this plan, the Government now needs move quickly to exploit the momentum it creates, by implementing the proposals and cementing clear timescales for delivery where they are currently omitted. In places, the conditional nature of the language used, and the absence of target deadlines, offers only limited assurance that the objectives outlined will see implementation.
"In order to avoid the plan becoming merely a 'plan to have a plan', the Government must ensure that the laudable actions outlined are actually carried out. This will create clarity and stability for all those working in ecology, planning and development.
"Particularly pressing, as we approach Brexit, is the need to establish the proposed new statutory body to hold the Government to account on environmental issues, and the need to design the metrics against which the success of the Plan will be measured. The float of new documents proposed, including the post-2020 Strategy for Nature, will also be key to delivery."