On the 11th January 2018, the Defra published its 25-Year Environment Plan outlining the objectives created to ensure that we leave the environment “in a better state than we found it”. This will involve the government working with both communities and businesses in order to “improve the environment within a generation”. In the words of Prime Minister Theresa May, the “goals [of the plan] are simple: cleaner air and water; plants and animals which are thriving; and a cleaner, greener country for us all”.
The plan is far-reaching, looking at a wide range of issues such as clean air, wildlife, resource management, climate change, and waste management. However, many have claimed that it lacks detail, resulting in it being a blueprint for legislation and policy to be created from, rather than an in-depth strategy.
There is a strong focus within the Plan on the issue of single-use plastics, quite possibly due to the momentum created by the “Attenborough Effect” and the increasing social awareness of the impact of this waste stream. The Plan outlines a target of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, proposing to look at the whole lifecycle of the plastic to reduce waste at each stage. This includes encouraging producers to take more responsibility of the environmental impacts of their products, reducing the demand for single-use plastics, making recycling easier, and improving recycling rate. This is clearly an important area that we need to work on so it is good that this Plan addresses it!
The Plan also focuses on achieving clean air and water. To work towards achieving clean air, the Plan outlines that there will be a push towards meeting legally binding targets to reduce emissions of damaging air pollutants, stating that this should halve the effects of air pollution on health by 2030! To address the target of clean water, the Plan outlines that they wish to reach or exceed objectives for rivers, lakes, coastal, and ground waters that are specially protected, as per the River Basin Management Plans.
Alongside this, the Plan proposes to fill the ‘governance gap’ created by Brexit and the lack of an independent body to hold the UK Government accountable for enforcing the environmental protections posed. The Plan has committed to consult on setting up an ‘environmental watchdog’ which will be an independent, statutory body, which will hold Government accountable for upholding all environmental standards, this is an important area as there were concerns over how the Government would attempt to recreate the independent body post-Brexit.
There are many more areas covered within the 25 Year Plan, including the planting of more trees, restoring wildlife-rich habitat, reducing environmental hazards, and using resources more sustainably and efficiently. The Plan is definitely ambitious and is a promising start to dealing with the post-Brexit UK environment.