The UK Governments 25 Year Environment Plan (A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment) released yesterday should, on the face of it be a very significant document. Leaks and pre-issue comments from Gove in particular, hinted at great things in respect to addressing plastic, aligning health benefits of nature with healthcare and restoring nature in light of housing and infrastructure developments.
The Plan identifies six key areas:
Using and managing land sustainably (chapter 1).
Recovering nature and enhancing the beauty of landscapes (chapter 2).
Connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing (chapter 3).
Increasing resource efficiency, and reducing pollution and waste (chapter 4).
Securing clean, productive and biologically diverse seas and oceans (chapter 5).
Protecting and improving the global environment (chapter 6).
And of note for the built environment,
‘Embed an ‘environmental net gain’ principle for development, including housing and infrastructure. (Chapter One)
High environmental standards for all new builds. New homes will be built in a way that reduces demands for water, energy and material resources, improves flood resilience, minimises overheating and encourages walking and cycling. Resilient buildings and infrastructure will more readily adapt to a changing climate.
And, to improve existing green infrastructure by encouraging more investment while making sure there is a presumption for sustainable development.
However what we have is low on ambition and nothing more than a plan to plan. Each action is peppered with “consider”, “explore”, “promote”, “help” etc … and to work with others if they would care to.
The fact this is a 25 year plan, in 2018, it takes us through to 2043 – firmly into the next generation that will undoubtedly be severely compromised by what we do or don’t do today. One only has to compare other initiatives with target dates within this timeframe to see how low on intent this plan is. Compare with the WorldGBC plans for zero carbon new buildings by 2030 and all buildings zero carbon by 2050, or the auto industry to move away from fossil fuels.
As commented by many, there is an ‘extraordinary omission’ in the plan: there is no mention at all of fracking. Given that the only sustained solution to the environmental and climate crisis is leaving fossil fuels in the ground, the continued support for extracting yet more through fracking cannot be justified in the light of the this report.
We are now acutely aware that we do not have the luxury only to explore, to consider and to just reduce impacts … that is not sustainable. We require more direct leadership, commitment and action to do more good, to restore and regenerate the environment.
George Monbiot commented ‘ Those who wrote (the plan) are aware of the multiple crises we face. But, having laid out the depth and breadth of our predicaments, they propose to do almost nothing about them”
Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, “unless more leadership is shown, wildlife will continue to decline & with it our mental health as more people become isolated from benefits of contact with nature’
What we do have however, and should take action on, is further recognition that the environment and connection with nature is severely affecting the health of the planet, of ourselves and of other species. Gove is trying to secure commitment to an Environment Act in the next Queen’s speech and we should help to secure this as there is not yet full government support, but there certainly needs to be more leadership, direct action and targets in this 25 year plan.