First speech on environment by UK Prime Minister in over 10 years

Environment Plan

We welcome the fact that a Prime Minister in the UK has spoken out on the need for a cleaner, greener Britain for the first time in 10 years.

As New Statesman reported, this is a week in which New York has responded to the global climate crisis with a lawsuit against fossil-fuel companies, China has taken the lead in renewable energy investments, and Theresa May ventured to the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust’s centre in Barnes to launch the government’s long awaited 25-year environment plan announcing … well, not that much.

The plan is big on catchphrases but weak on content and real action, a fact that green campaigners were quick to point out, describing it as ‘fundamentally flawed’ and ‘a long way off’.

The plan “makes no solid commitments to new law and it lacks any detail about how we will enforce environment laws once we leave the EU,” commented Karla Hill, the Director of Programmes at law firm ClientEarth.

The long periods of time set aside to address problems is also a major issue. The lack of urgency does not reflect the scale of the crisis. Things needs need to start happening now – we need budgets assigned to support the changes and clear legislation and a regulatory framework designed to stimulate action and investment.

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth:

“A long-term vision 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.”

Nick Molho, Executive Director, Aldersgate Group:

“Today, the Government rightly highlighted the economic, social and health benefits of investing in the natural environment. By setting out long-term goals to improve our environment and committing to introducing reliable metrics to monitor progress, this plan provides much needed clarity on the direction of the UK’s environmental policy as it leaves the EU.

“Businesses will be at the heart of delivering the UK’s environmental goals and the Plan’s focus on significantly improving the resource efficiency of the economy and setting up a green business council is strongly welcomed.”

Environment Plan

Shaun Spiers, Executive Director, Green Alliance:

“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.  

“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.”

Karen Ellis, Interim Director of Science & Policy, WWF-UK:

“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.”

John Sauven, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK:

“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.”

For more reviews and commentary on the plan:

The Guardian (Adam Vaughan): Conservatives’ 25-year green plan: main points at a glance

The Times (Ben Webster): May looks to future with plan for green and pleasant land

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