This month, the chancellor made his spring statement, giving us both a view of the current economic conditions and a set of new measures to tackle the issues our country faces. Many of these issues affect nature and our natural environment.
On the positive side, the movement away from single-use plastic continues, with a call for evidence on how the tax system can be used to discourage their use. The chancellor insists that the possible tax changes are intended not as a way of raising revenue, but of changing behavior. He also announced new funding to stimulate “new thinking and rapid solutions” to tackle plastic waste. This is all welcome, but we should not lose sight of the need to radically reduce our use of plastic in the immediate future while we pursue longer term technological and cultural changes.
One of the big environmental challenges faced by the UK is the need for more housing. The government has promised significant extra funding to developers, but there is reason to be cautious. While people need space to live, much of the housing built in recent decades has pushed nature further away. It is increasingly important that new housing developments are built in a way that both encourages biodiversity within the sites and provides green space where residents can enjoy nature first-hand.
The chancellor also announced a consultation on providing tax incentives for commercial vehicle drivers to run cleaner, more efficient vans. With diesel engines contributing to poor air quality in many areas around the country, more action in this direction is welcome.
REAL ACTION REQUIRED
As usual, however, there is a catch. Many of the “greener” initiatives announced are nothing more than consultations with no legally enforceable outcomes. In a time of terrifying environmental trends, we need action now far more than we need more words. The recent loss of the last male northern white rhino is a visible reminder that we are losing species every day. Recent reports from France and Germany have highlighted the collapse of ecosystems much closer to home. If the nature with which we have been entrusted is to be preserved, we need more than ever to raise our voices in support of tangible actions that will begin to reverse this decline.