Action call after May launches environment plan

Julian Roughton, chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Picture: ARCHANT

Julian Roughton, chief executive of Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Suffolk Wildlife Trusts leads response to the Government’s environmental ambitions.

Andrew Impey, Essex Wildlife Trust's chief executive. Picture: ARCHANT

Andrew Impey, Essex Wildlife Trust's chief executive. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Su Anderson

East Anglian environmental guardians urged Theresa May to back her “warm words” with legislative action as they studied the detail of the Government’s long-awaited 25-year plan for the environment.

Initial responses to the document in the hours after it was launched were broadly positive, with campaigners encouraged by its “fine ambitions and fine aspirations.” But the consensus was that action speaks louder than words and delivery of the plan was what really mattered.

Julian Roughton, chief executive of the 28,500-strong Suffolk Wildlife Trust, said: “The aspirations are brilliant, the ambitions are brilliant - but there are very few mechanisms by which we can understand that it is all going to be delivered and that enable us to see that things are going to change in the ways they need to change.

“We cannot depend on the warm words of the Prime Minister or her Secretary of State for the Environment. We have to have something that gives us confidence of delivery. The proof of the pudding is in the turning of these proposals into serious actions that are embedded in all Government departments.”

Prime Minister Theresa May looks through a pair of binoculars during a visit to the London Wetland C

Prime Minister Theresa May looks through a pair of binoculars during a visit to the London Wetland Centre in South West London, where she set out her vision for protecting the environment. Picture: DAN KITWOOD/PA - Credit: PA


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The plan includes aspirations to eliminate avoidable plastic waste within 25 years, extending the 5p charge for plastic carrier bags to all retailers in England and considering taxes and charges on single-use items such as takeaway containers. It aims to establish a £10million Nature Friendly Schools programme and to establish an independent statutory body to hold government to account on the environment after Brexit.

Mr Roughton added: “It is a relief to see the environment back in focus on the political agenda. They have done this because they know people think it is important but we cannot be complacent that they will deliver and they have to be held to account.

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“Twenty-five years is a long time in terms of aspiration and it feels like it is kicking it all down the road a bit. It would have been better if there were delivery targets, say, in five years as that would give us the confidence about delivery.”

Andrew Impey, Mr Roughton’s counterpart at the 35,800-member Essex Wildlife Trust, tweeted: “Lots of questions surround the motivation, the detail, the commitment and the legislative force behind the Government’s environmental statements today. But for today at least, let’s celebrate the fact that we are talking about the environment. The environment is in the news.”

Launching the plan, Mrs May pledged that Brexit would not lead to a lowering of environmental standards in the UK. She said the Government sought to “make ours the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state that we found it.”

Rejecting as a “false choice” the suggestion that Britain must chose between economic growth or environmental protection, Mrs May staked her party’s claim for the green mantle.

She promised to put the natural world “centre stage” in her Government’s agenda and declared: “Conservatism and conservation are natural allies.”

The plan comes as part of a concerted drive by Conservatives to demonstrate their concern for green issues. Their stance on issues such as fox hunting and the ivory trade was blamed for losing the votes of many young people who have been inspired with a renewed interest in the natural world by programmes such as Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II.

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