Our Comment: 25 Year Environment Plan

On 11 January 2018 the government published the much anticipated 25 Year Environment Plan. The plan acknowledges that we need a comprehensive change and a long-term programme to improve the quality of our natural environment covering many terms and changes in Parliament. Although there was widespread relief when the plan was published and several important policy announcements, there was also criticism that it lacked detail and was ‘a plan about making more plans’.

Overview

For the government to deliver their manifesto pledge of being the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it, the protection and enhancement of the natural environment is a priority. This is one of the key reasons for the 25 Year Environment Plan. The key policy announcement that attracted the most attention was a ban on avoidable plastic waste by 2042, through measures such as a wider plastic bag levy and plastic free aisles to name a few.

Reception of Plan

The plan was widely praised by many organisations as a step in the right direction. For example WWF believed that ‘the plan is a strong start seeing the government putting the environment on the agenda but believe that they need to go further and faster’. The RSPB applauded the ambition of the plan and wanted to see more detail of the proposed radical action which the plan refers to achieve nature recovery. The editor of BusinessGreen believes that measures such as banning avoidable waste by 2042, a wider plastic bag levy, a network of water fountains and a 2019 year of the environment might be tokenistic but they are positive tokens.

Others believed that there have been glaring opportunities missed. For example, Greenpeace argued there was no comment on previously tried and tested deposit return schemes. Whilst the Guardian feels there has been no tangible plan or policy for recycling, especially as local authorities will be expected to increase recycling whilst being hit with austerity budget cuts.

Implications for the West Midlands

SWM has recently conducted a review to identify the key sustainability opportunities for the West Midlands from the 25 Year Environment Plan. This will help SWM, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and our networks of members and partners to understand where we can work together to help deliver the UK Government agenda and our own regional and local priorities. These are:

  • SWM already provides independent annual sustainability monitoring for the West Midlands region and WMCA, and could expand this with partners to include a measure of natural capital.
  • Aligning investment in the natural environment with the emerging workstreams we are supporting with partners and the WMCA around natural environment and green infrastructure, and the work of our members such as National Grid.
  • Drive for higher environmental standards for housing will help our work with the WMCA and our members such as the Sustainable Housing Action Partnership (SHAP) to improve local sustainability construction standards, location and planning.
  • The region has a high concentration of waste recycling companies due to our manufacturing base and location as a national logistics hub. Therefore West Midlands companies and business networks will benefit from the proposed actions on improved innovation on product design, reuse, and recycling. This also supports one of the WMCA work streams.
  • Potential to explore a regional waste and resource efficiency strategy to support the new national strategy in 2018.
  • The improved water efficiency and planning agenda will support the SWM Green Business Clubs Network activities and our work with Severn Trent

Gareth Evans, Volunteer Communications Officer, on behalf of the SWM team.