Speaking exclusively to edie, Green Alliance chief executive Shaun Spiers praised the Government’s recent efforts to tackle plastic pollution, but said he wished to see a more ambitious plastics waste target in place than the one set out in the 25-year Environment Plan.

“That deadline should be brought forward at least 10 years,” Spiers said, ahead of his edie Live appearance this week. “If they are avoidable then it can’t be beyond the wit of man to come up with something to avoid them in less than 25 years’ time. 

“Hats off to the Government for doing something about plastics. It’s been a problem for ages and recently been helped enormously by Blue Planet and David Attenborough. To give them credit, Michael Gove and the Prime Minister have identified it as something where action can be taken, and they have forced through some change. But the 2042 target is hopeless.” 

The Government’s recent action on plastics – ranging from the launch of a £50m innovation hub to fresh consultations on plastic straws and a national deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers – has been widely praised by environmental groups.

Indeed, ministers have been proactive in the broader resources agenda over the past few months, ahead of the launch of the new Resources and Waste Strategy later this year. Of most significance was a reversal of behind-the-scenes opposition to the ambitious recycling targets in the EU’s upcoming Circular Economy Package.

It comes as no surprise then, that ‘waste & resources’ was downgraded from a ‘high risk’ to a ‘medium risk’ in the latest quarterly Brexit tracker produced by the Greener UK coalition of green groups, of which the Green Alliance is an active member.

Post Brexit concerns

But concerns still exist around the UK’s green policy approach once it departs the EU. Over the past fortnight, the Government’s plans for a new environmental watchdog to maintain standards and hold ministers to account in post-Brexit Britain has come under near universal attack from green campaigners.

Spiers warned that unless a “strong, independent, well-funded” watchdog was put in place, then Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s promise of a “Green Brexit” would be “worthless”.

The Green Alliance boss also called for the EU to insert a non-regression clause into the text of the final trade agreement to ensure its green lines are enforced after exit day

“The biggest concern we’ve got is that the Government doesn’t know who it wants to trade with post-Brexit,” he said.

“If we turn our back on the EU, which is our largest trading partner, and try to strike free trade deals with a bunch of other countries who have lower environmental standards, pre-eminently the US, who will force a really hard deal on agricultural products and want to make sure we take their hormone-implanted beef and chlorinated chicken, then it will be really severe for the environment.

Spiers added: “If you do agree to a non-regression clause, then it seems very unlikely that we will see a trade deal with the US. That means you are more or less committed to EU green protections.”

George Ogleby  

Shaun Spiers at edie Live

Green Alliance chief executive and edie Live conference chair Shaun Spiers will be providing the opening remarks at the Sustainability Keynote theatre on the first morning of the show tomorrow (22 May). 

Running between 22 – 23 May 2018, edie Live plans to show delegates how they can achieve their Mission Possible. Through the lens of energy, resources, the built environment, mobility and business leadership an array of expert speakers will be on hand to inspire delegates to achieve a sustainable future. For more information click here.

George Ogleby 

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