The government has unveiled its long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan, which was accompanied by the first prime ministerial speech on the environment in 17 years.
The plan is the sister document to the government’s Clean Growth Strategy, which was unveiled in October last year.
Together, the documents set out the government’s long-term environmental vision for the UK, covering everything from industrial efficiency and transport to agriculture and nature protection.
Launching the plan on 11 January, Theresa May said: “As we leave the EU, which for decades has controlled some of the most important levers of environmental policy, now is the right time to put the question of how we protect and enhance our natural environment centre-stage.”
The plan makes a series of statements on air, water, biodiversity, natural resource efficiency, climate change, waste and chemicals. Key points in the 151-page document include:
• Eliminating ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042 by encouraging producers to take more responsibility, reducing demand for single-use plastics, making recycling easier and improving the rate of recycling
• Achieving zero avoidable waste by 2050 through setting and meeting ambitious targets and working with industry to encourage circular business models and “industrial symbiosis”
• Doubling ‘resource productivity’ by 2050 by promoting reuse, remanufacturing and recycling
• Establishing a Green Business Council for “setting the right conditions to stimulate environmental entrepreneurism”
• Prioritising ‘Natural Capital’ accounting to measure the value of natural resources and encourage its use in decision-making
• Bringing forward legislation to cut industrial emissions from combustion plants and back-up generators
• Embedding an ‘environmental net gain’ principle for new developments and infrastructure
• Planting 180,000 hectares of woodland by 2042, starting with a £5.7 million Northern Forest stretching along the M62 corridor
• Making 2019 a ‘Year of Action’ for the environment
To support the waste and resource productivity elements of the plan, a separate Resources and Waste Strategy will be unveiled later in 2018 with the aim of making the UK “a world leader in resource efficiency”.
Other supporting documents to be released later this year include a Bioeconomy Strategy to support bio alternatives to fossil fuel derived products, a Chemicals Strategy, and the second part of the Clean Air Strategy.
Karen Ellis, acting director of science & policy, WWF-UK, said the plan could be a “game-charger”, but needed to be “underpinned by strong laws and regulations, and a clear action plan for achieving the goals it sets out.”