We’ve commented previously on the need for a vision for UK’s nature, and the Department for Environment has been preparing a 25-year Plan for Nature. But after several delays to publication, the Government announced in April it would be postponed indefinitely.
Concerned about weakening environmental protections as the UK prepares to exit the EU, many charities have been arguing for a new Environment Act to bolster things like water and air quality and nature protection. There was gathering political support for it. But the Government announced in May it wouldn’t consider legislation until post-Brexit, threatening the very gap in environmental protection that proponents of the Act hoped it would avoid.
The Government then sought to delay publication of its air pollution plan, required by the EU, until after the election. Dire air quality in many cities, resulting from vehicle exhaust emissions, is causing around 40,000 premature deaths a year. Court action by Client Earth forced publication, but the content was derided by health and environmental organisations as inadequate and passing the buck to local authorities.
We can only speculate on the Government’s reasons. We cannot know that national leaders of a different hue would’ve acted differently. But whichever party wins on 8th June should craft policies urgently to address these issues. They’ll probably be governing for the next five critical years. People need them to set firmest and fairest foundations for a healthier Britain beyond the EU. That must include a clear vision for restoring the health of the environment – for nature and people.
To think we can achieve this while weakening environmental protection is nonsense. Ensuring the young and vulnerable can breathe without dying must surely be one of the most basic public health responsibilities.