UK government unveils 25-year Environment Plan

Theresa May today outlined her government’s 25-year vision for the environment, pledging to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by the end of 2042.

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The prime minister said that plastic pollution was one of the “great environmental scourges of our time” as she unveiled plans to extend the 5p carrier bag charge to all retailers in England, including smaller shops that are currently exempt.

It was also announced that the government would encourage supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles, selling food loose, and look to explore how changes to the tax system could minimise waste.

“In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly,” May said. “The UK will demonstrate global leadership and take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic.”

The plan outlines how research into innovative plastic solutions will receive funding from the government’s £7bn R&D pot; while Britain will also provide more aid to help developing nations tackle plastic waste.

Other proposals include:

• Creating 500,000 hectares of new habitat for endangered species and providing £5.7m for a new northern forest
• Investigating the feasibility of an anti-poaching taskforce to tackle illegal wildlife trade
• Consulting on a new environmental watchdog to hold the government to account after Brexit, and setting out a new approach to agriculture and fisheries management.

The government also said it would seek to embed a ‘net environmental gain’ principle so that construction and other developments deliver improvements for the environment both locally and nationally.

This was suggested in September last year by IEMA chief policy advisor, Martin Baxter, who has cautiously welcomed today’s plan, highlighting the lack of a legal underpinning for the proposals.

He said: “The prime minister struck the right chord in making clear connections between the environment to the economy and society, something that IEMA has long championed.

“The plan’s integration with existing policies and schemes like the Clean Growth plan, the Industrial Strategy, the UN’s SDGs and the Paris Accord show good short- and long-term thinking – we applaud all these moves.”

“However, it could be accused of lacking in urgency, and will only have teeth if it is underpinned by the right legislation and strong governance, yet the prime minister made no mention of how it will be enforced.

“IEMA and our members will be actively involved in shaping what happens next.”

 

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