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How Much Has Theresa May Set Aside for the Environment?

Mar 30 2018 Read 953 Times

In the last 12 months, the Conservative government has made a concerted effort to portray itself as environmentally-conscious and committed to pursuing practices which will result in cleaner air, water and soil. With that in mind, Theresa May launched a 25-year plan at the beginning of 2018.

However, as a result of a written question posited by the Green Party leader Caroline Lucas and some sleuthing on the part of environmental body Greenpeace, it has emerged that May has only set aside an additional £15.7 million for funding the plan. Over the course of its duration, that amounts to well under £1 million per year.

Fudging the figures

Upon the launch of the strategy on January 11th, May was very vocal about how the government is committed to tackling plastic pollution, ending animal abuse and moving towards a cleaner, greener Britain for the future. At the time, the plan came under fire for its lack of concrete proposals, non-existent legislation and vague funding promises.

Eager to pin down May’s government on exactly how much money it was willing to set aside for the plan, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas asked them point blank. The response came from Environment Minister Thérèse Coffee, who pointed to £3.5 billion aimed at improving air quality and £5.8 billion devoted to aiding the developing world to meet their climate change obligations.

However, the Unearthed branch of Greenpeace has revealed that both of these figures belong to existing budgets, meaning that the £10 million promised to allow children to experience nature and the £5.7 million earmarked for planting more trees in northern England are the only additional commitments. Over the course of the 25-year strategy, that works out to £628,000 per year, or less than one penny per person per year.

DEFRA on the defence

Lucas responded to Coffee’s answer with strong criticism: “This extra funding is truly a pittance – and is frankly an embarrassing reminder of this government’s half-hearted attempts to convince people that they care about the environment,” she told Greenpeace. “Though ministers have plenty of warm words about the protection of our planet, they are utterly failing to take action commensurate with the scale of the crises we face.”

The incumbent government have been continually criticised for their environmental policy. At the beginning of last year, Theresa May came under heavy fire for selling off Britain's Green Investment Bank, while the Conservatives have been taken to court on several occasions by environmental law firm ClientEarth for their inertia on air quality issues throughout the country. For their part, DEFRA have remained steadfast in their stance that they are committed to cleaning up the environment.

“Our 25-year environment plan builds on substantial existing investment – such as the £3.5bn we’re investing in improving air quality and the £2.5bn we’re spending on flood defences. It also commits new funding to improve habitats for wildlife, connect children with nature and support the Northern Forest,” a DEFRA spokesman said. “We have also committed to maintain £3bn in farm support every year up to 2022, and our 25-year plan paves the way for more farm support funding to be spent on environmental enhancement in the future.”

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