25YEP: Here’s the UK’s 25-year plan to improve the environment, tackle plastic waste and protect wildlife
After Number 10 outlined the key pledges in the UK government’s 25-year plan to improve the environment earlier this week, Prime Minister Theresa May and Environment Secretary Michael Gove have today released the full report to the public.
The so-called 25YEP is officially titled “A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment” and outlines the key policies that will come into play over the next quarter of a century. The plan is far-reaching and ambitious, with fingers in many pies, from the scientific to the moral to the educational.
From ameliorating natural wildlife habitats and improving air and water quality, to enlisting children in the green revolution’s onward march, 25YEP is robust, multi-faceted and promising. Public bodies rejoiced in the wake of the announcement, although praise didn’t go untempered by scepticism.
Kew Gardens praised the move on Twitter, “[Kew Gardens] welcomes the ambition of the new #25YEP towards a more holistic approach to the environment,” before warning, “[i]t needs to be backed by the commitment to deliver, so nature benefits everyone for generations to come.”
A press release from the much-loved botanical haven confirmed the gardens’ official stance, stating it “welcomes the plan’s long-term approach, scale of ambition and its focus on natural capital”.
We’ve assessed the major points in 25YEP, bringing you a definitive list of the government’s virtuous promises.
One subdomain of 25YEP is plastics, of which the government plans to eliminate all avoidable use. This entails policies such as extending the 5p plastic bag chargers to small retailers, like your local off-licence.
Removal of single use plastics from the government estate is another pledge, as well as bolstering the number of water fountains countrywide so as to cut down on the number of plastic bottles in circulation. The plan also advocates collaborating with supermarkets to cultivate plastic-free aisles.
25YEP: Foreign aid
The government isn’t focusing all of its efforts on home turf; 25YEP pledges to commit overseas aid to help developing countries cut down on plastic waste, as well as experimenting with the idea of an anti-poaching taskforce to clamp down on the illegal trade of wildlife.
It also aims to expand the UK’s network of marine protected areas, news that fans of Blue Planet will no doubt be revelling in.
The environmental master plan spells good news for Britain’s wildlife, with the news that it will create half a million hectares of new habitat for endangered species.
Cold, hard cash (£5.7 million, to be exact) is being dispensed to kick-start a new Northern Forest, and farmers are being encouraged (and supported) to turn fields into vibrant, wildlife-rich meadows.
25YEP: Domestic politics
It’d be weird if the government didn’t crowbar Brexit discussion into a government initiative, and 25YEP is no exception. The plan promises a Green Brexit, with a new environmental watchdog welcomed in to monitor the government’s progress (and shortcomings). The body would also be responsible for devising a new approach to agriculture and fisheries management.
“Respecting nature’s intrinsic value and making sure we are wise stewards of our natural world is critical if we are to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it,” Michael Gove elucidated.
The creation of “nature friendly schools” has also been espoused, in a bid to connect people with nature. This would operate alongside a review of the National Parks: how they’re faring, if they can be improved, and if they should be extended.
Development of a “net environmental gain” principle is underway, incentivising the housing development industry to make environmental improvements on a local and national level.
25YEP: First thoughts
Of course, we’re approaching the idea of 25YEP with alacrity. It serves to bolster existing initiatives, including the government’s Clean Growth Strategy, as well as a Call for Evidence on reward and return schemes for drinks containers, the efficacy and viability of which will come to light this spring.
Gove attested to the natural benefits which sustained adherence to 25YEP will reap: “Our Environment Plan sets out how over the next 25 years we will radically reduce the waste that is choking oceans and rivers, cleanse our air of toxic pollutants and create new habitats for our most precious wildlife to thrive.”
It will, he went on, help distinguish the UK as a “global leader in environmental protection”, as well as preserving our country for posterity. 25YEP will be instrumental in “creating an environment that everyone can enjoy and helping the next generation flourish.”
Wariness is encouraged though.
The Woodland Trust expressed excitement for the plan, but reserved judgment for 25YEP’s environmental benefits until legislative changes are made. “[25YEP’s] ability to deliver for the #environment in real terms will be judged by changes in legislation,” the conservation charity decreed.
Meanwhile, although the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) deemed the plan a “strong start”, it lamented that its policies weren’t going far – or fast – enough. “We want to see a ban on single-use plastic by 2025, and more urgent action on dirty air, climate change and protecting our precious natural heritage,” it announced in an official response.
There you have it. A timely and needed response, but one which could certainly go farther in its endeavours to bolster natural capital. Nonetheless, 25YEP marks a good, proactive start to the long journey of environmental improvement that lies ahead.
25YEP can be read in full here.