‘Raising spirits’ is futile without legal underpinnings to curb behaviours that result in pollution, say campaigners
Environmental groups have criticised the lack of proposed legislation and the lengthy timescales for dealing with problems in the Government’s new environment strategy.
Theresa May launched the 25 year environment plan in a speech on Thursday, setting out the Government’s goals for preserving and improving the environment.
Notable targets include eliminating all avoidable waste by 2050 and all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.
However, while the plan has been broadly welcomed by environmental groups, it has also drawn criticism.
“We are not really clear what legislation there will be to implement this plan,” Ben Stafford, head of campaigns at WWF told The Independent.
“If you want to have a vision to not just protect the environment but improve it you need ambitious new laws to do that.”
“There are fantastic words and ambitions for land and sea that raise the spirits – but the lack of legal underpinning is a fundamental flaw,” agreed Stephanie Hilborne, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts.
Ms Hilborne said an ambitious Environment Act will be necessary in the next Parliament if the new plan is to have any significance.
Plastic pollution was the topic from the plan that made headlines, with suggestions including the introduction of “plastic-free” supermarket aisles and an extension of the 5p carrier bag charge to all English retailers.
However, environmentalists emphasised the importance of focusing on other environmental challenges that have not been given the same prominence.
“You only need to look at the things Theresa May didn’t talk about for the clues to where the Government’s record is not nearly so strong,” Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth chief executive, told The Independent.
Mr Bennett listed air pollution, fracking and the destruction of ancient woodlands as topics that were noticeable by their absence.
The long periods of time set aside to address problems is another issue highlighted by groups.
“It’s all very well saying in 25 years’ time you want to have a well-protected network of marine areas, or we want to increase our wildlife,” said Mr Stafford.
“But what are we going to do in the short term to make that happen?”
According to Mr Stafford, the success of the 2008 Climate Change Act can largely be attributed to the setting of budgets every five years, targets and reports back to Parliament on progress.
“We would like to see something similar to that in terms of the progress government is making,” he said.
“Twenty five years is a long way off – particularly for a government that might not last 25 weeks. We need action now,” said Mr Bennett.
“The environment is now a mainstream concern in this country, with millions of people caring deeply about it,” said Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven.
“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.”