What Is Greenpeace's Environment Report Card?
Sep 04 2018 Read 1030 Times
At the beginning of the year, Environment Minister Michael Gove announced the government’s 25-year Environment Plan, which was supposed to tackle mainstream issues such as plastic pollution, air quality and ocean conservation. Six months on, Greenpeace have decided to review their performance in the interim with an environment record card, to see how well their actions match their words. Here’s the breakdown.
In the energy sector, the government are not performing well. Despite the environmental and economic advantages of investing in renewable technology, the Conservatives recently pulled the plug on the world’s first tidal lagoon project in Wales and appear to prefer investing the money elsewhere.
The furore surrounding nuclear station Hinckley C is still rumbling on, while there have been rumblings that they are now considering pouring money into another nuclear plant in Wales. Meanwhile, oil and shale gas companies in Lancashire have been given the green light to undertake the UK’s first fracking operations.
The recent improvements made in air quality networks across the UK means that we now have a better picture than ever of how polluted our airways are. In urban centres like London, Birmingham and beyond, that appears to be very polluted indeed.
The fast-tracked introduction of an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone in the UK capital will go some way to alleviate problems there, but there appears to be little reason why similar incentives can’t come into force in similarly polluted towns and cities across the country.
While the UK has set a target of 2040 for banning the sale of new fossil fuel-powered cars, the fact that other countries (like China and Norway) have pledged the same result in less time means this government is lagging behind.
Michael Gove began his tenure as Environment Minister by outlawing microbeads in certain cosmetic products, and has continued to wage war on single-use plastics with proposed bans on straws, stirrers and cotton buds.
Elsewhere, the government also plan to introduce a deposit return scheme whereby people will receive a small amount for bringing their used plastic bottles back to the shop where they purchased them. There are also new initiatives looking into technological solutions to the problem, such as the unlikely marriage of forensic science and artificial intelligence to tackle plastic waste.
All of these measures will have beneficial impacts on the environment and should help the government to meet its target of phasing out all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. However, critics say that this deadline is unnecessarily far in the future and that more should be done to tackle the problem immediately.
Good news here as the government has pledged to create a Blue Belt of protected zones around all of its overseas territories. Furthermore, the Conservatives have shown support for the implementation of a protected zone around the Weddell Sea in Antarctica, which would be the largest of its kind if it goes through.
While the Conservatives have made some of the right noises in the last six months, very little legislation has actually come into force and it’s time for them to step up and deliver what they have promised. Furthermore, the looming shadow of Brexit may make all of these pledges irrelevant if the new regulations are not worked into the negotiations for leaving the EU. Verdict: shows potential, but must do better.
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