PM’s green speech: We can’t afford to wait 25 years – action needed now, says Friends of the Earth

11th January 2018
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Theresa May must commit to urgent action to tackle the issues currently threatening our lives, health and planet, Friends of the Earth said today ahead of the Prime Minister’s key speech on the environment.

The Prime Minister is also expected to unveil the government’s much delayed 25 year environment plan later today.

Speaking ahead of the Prime Ministers speech Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett said:

“A 25 year plan is clearly needed – but with the nation facing an accelerating environmental crisis we can’t afford to wait a quarter of a century for urgent action to tackle the issues that already threaten our lives, health and planet.

“Thousands of people are dying prematurely every year in the UK because of dirty air pollution, the planet is hurtling towards catastrophic climate change and our precious wildlife sites and open spaces are increasingly under attack.

“If Theresa May wants to champion the environment she must spell out the bold measures her government will take in the next few weeks and months to help clean up and repair out battered planet.

“And while the government’s ambition to leave England’s natural environment in a better state than the one it inherited is extremely welcome – it won’t achieve this if it allows fracking firms, plastic pollution, intensive agriculture and dodgy developments to wreck our countryside.”

Friends of the Earth is urging the Prime Minister to take action on a number of issues including:

  • Show global leadership by pledging to tighten the UK’s legally-binding carbon budgets to ensure we play our fair share in meeting the 2015 Paris climate summit commitments – including trying to limit global temperature rises to no more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels
  • Ban fracking and open-cast coal extraction
  • Commit to urgently publishing a revised Air Quality Plan which will end illegal levels of air pollution across the UK by the end of 2019
  • Unlock subsidies for new onshore wind capacity across the UK
  • Ensure truly transparent and democratic oversight of future trade negotiations – including giving Parliament a final vote
  • Commit to staying part of selected EU institutions including REACH (chemicals), in order to best tackle environmental issues and provide greatest certainly and markets for UK businesses
  • Set firm targets and take the action necessary to reverse decline of wild species, soil, water quality in the UK
  • Ensure the government’s environment watchdogs have legal teeth, and are properly resourced and free from the political interference to restore nature and tackle pollution
  • Reduce and ultimately end the use of throw-away, single-use plastics

25 year environment plan 

The government’s 25 year environment plan is intended to deliver on the government aim – first set out in its 2011 White Paper, the Natural Choice – to be “the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than it inherited…”, and the 2015 Conservative Party election manifesto pledge: “We will…develop a 25 Year Plan to restore the UK’s biodiversity”.

Friends of the Earth hopes this much-delayed Environment Plan will help the government achieve this. But early drafts of the plan have shown a lack of detail and only vague short to medium term targets, which Friends of the Earth has told the government will not be fit for purpose and will fail to build the trust, confidence and momentum that will be required to deliver on the pledges.