I am pleased that the Government has undertaken a great deal of work in this area and it is an agenda I have been particularly involved with and I wanted to share some of the progress with you. While there have been great strides forward I recognise that there is much more to do and the urgency of going even further is vital. Importantly, the Government has committed to leaving the environment in a better state than we found it and the 25 Year Environment Plan sets out a framework to enable this. It includes tackling the scourge of plastic, delivering cleaner air and water and crucially using the opportunity Brexit provides to develop our own bespoke agricultural and fisheries policies with a more sustainable focus. Key Environmental achievements are as follows:
- Banning plastic microbeads in personal care and cosmetic products; these include face scrubs, soaps, toothpaste and shower gels. Just one shower was sending 100,000 microbeads down the drain and into the ocean, causing serious harm to marine life).
- Ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds and a deposit return scheme for single-use plastics that is underway and subject to consultation.
- Introducing a 5p charge on single-use plastic bags: This has reduced their use by 85% - with each person on average now using 25 bags a year compared to 140 before the charge came into effect.
- Doubling the maximum fine for littering to £150: For the first time, local authorities can also use these littering penalties against vehicle owners if it can be proved litter was thrown from their car.
- Our Resources & Waste strategy: will end confusion over recycling and tackle problem packaging by making polluters pay.
- Create a Northern Forest from Liverpool to Hull with the aim of planting 50 million trees over 25 years: Spanning more than 120 miles between the cities of Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, the proposed Northern Forest will help boost habitats for woodland birds and bats and protect iconic species such as the red squirrel.
- Securing extra protection for precious Ancient Woodland and veteran trees: New planning rules have at last given ancient trees and woods the highest possible protection from development.
- Protecting our bees and other pollinators by helping secure an EU-wide ban on neonicotinoids pesticides: The UK voted in favour of the proposals that will see a ban on outdoor use of three neonicotinoids - Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam.
- Creating 41 new Marine Conservation Zones around the UK: Safeguarding almost 12,000 square kilometres of marine habitats and marking the most significant expansion of the UK’s ‘Blue Belt’ of protected areas to date.
- Internationally protecting marine habitats with a Blue Belt to protect an area the size of India, including recently protecting 4m sq. kms of pristine waters around Ascension Island.
It is clear that tackling climate change is at the forefront of many people’s minds and I am pleased this is being taken extremely seriously by the government. Working with the Climate Change Committee, Government is taking advice on achieving net zero emissions across the economy. Many MPs have pushed for this with strong support from their constituencies. Tackling Climate Change includes the following:
- The UK has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 25% since 2010, faster than any other G20 country.
- The UK was the first country to phase out coal by 2020.
- Invested £52 billion in renewable energy since 2010 with 400,000 people now working in low Carbon businesses.
- 2018 was the cleanest and greenest year with renewable resources supplying a third of our electricity, up from just over 6% in 2009.
- The Government has established the International Climate Fund (ICF) to provide £5.8 billion to help the world's poorest adapt to climate change and promote cleaner, greener economic growth.
- Encouraging Greener Homes by bringing an end to fossil fuel heating systems in all new houses by 2025 and ensuring new housing developments deliver environmental improvements locally and nationally by using the ‘net-environmental gain principle.’
As we exit the EU, there is an exciting opportunity to rethink our land use policy through the Agriculture Bill ensuring farmers are paid for the delivery of public goods. The Fisheries Bill will ensure we have a sustainable fishing industry post-Brexit.
In a game-changing moment, demonstrating this Government’s true commitment to the environment, the Chancellor announced a whole range of measures in the recent Spring Statement. Foremost is a new global review to assess the economic value of biodiversity globally so we know what action is needed to take to restore our precious environment which has suffered such a catastrophic decline in recent decades. This could do for the Environment what the Stern Report did for Climate Change. In addition, we will enhance environmental standards through the forthcoming Environment Bill and establish a world-leading, green governance body – the Office for Environmental Protection – to uphold environmental legislation.
Tackling poor air quality through the Clean Air Strategy; banning petrol and diesel cars by 2040, investing millions in greener public transport, electric and hydrogen vehicles.
I hope you will agree that the Government is demonstrating a genuine commitment to leaving the Environment in a better state than we found it. Whilst many positive steps have been taken, I realise there is much more to do and the urgency of addressing this has certainly been stressed to me by many individuals and groups that I have met with. Rest assured I understand this message which is so important for future generations. Climate Change has no boundaries and it is important that it is tackled worldwide. I shall continue to work on this agenda and please continue to share your thoughts and ideas with me.