Finally, the Government has launched its much delayed 25-year plan, A Greener Future. A Rocha UK has called frequently for much greater Government vision to protect and restore the UK’s environment. Backed by the Prime Minister’s desire that we should be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it, the 25-year plan provides an exciting vision. A Rocha UK welcomes that.
The vision includes, among a long list of positive aims, an end to all avoidable plastic waste by 2042, creation of 500,000 hectares of new wildlife habitat, designation of new marine conservation zones by July 2019, and intentions to change farming practice and subsidies to reward good stewardship of nature.
But the plan is hollow when it comes to concrete policies. The only firm commitment is to impose a plastic bag charge on small shops in England – something Scotland and Wales already do! Its response to a slew of critical issues where bold action is needed now, is simply that the Government will consult.
This includes consulting on establishing an independent environmental watchdog to hold the Government to account once the UK leaves the EU and its accountability mechanisms which have been so vital in providing some protection for UK nature. This smacks of a critical lack of urgency – given that Britain continues to lose its nature at an unprecedented rate.
The big question, then, is how serious is the Government about delivering this vision? Proof of seriousness would be bold policies soon, a route map with milestones to 2042, an independent watchdog, and real money behind the plan.
We Christians passionate about protecting nature should pray and raise our voices to urge the Government to build on the vision fast, with solid action. Ultimately, in a democracy with many competing interests, the realisation of the vison will depend on how strongly and consistently we, the people, demand it!