Less talk, more action, says Environment Agency

The Environment Agency has launched a new type of mass consultation event, with over 300 delegates from business, industry, non-governmental organisations and government attending two days of debate on 22-23 October. At the event, Agency Chief Executive Barbara Young called for action to begin immediately on tackling the UK’s environmental problems.

“We are very good at identifying the problems and exploring the differences,” Young told delegates at Environment UK 2002, held at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. But decisions have to be made and acted on now, she said. “In some of these issues, we’re drinking in the last chance saloon.”

At the moment there is no platform for a multisectoral approach to environmental protection, said Agency Chairman Sir John Harman, explaining the reasons behind the new conference. “Basically, we can’t do it ourselves,” he said. The new event, which he hopes will now run once a year, is a networking forum intended to find common ground between different groups with an interest in environmental improvement. “It’s about finding partnerships and alliances that will deliver,” he said.

In her keynote speech at the event, Young called for a reduction in packaging and a doubling of the tax on landfill, preferably immediately. UK farming also needs to realise a reduction in its estimated £1.4 billion annual environmental cost. Finally, regarding climate change, there needs to be a “deep cut in emissions”, and the “removal of the barriers for the faster development of renewables”, she said.

Agency fears also include the issue of flooding. When asked whether the recent catastrophic flooding in Europe could be repeated in the UK, Harman stated that he would never reassure people that they were safe from flooding. Had the high tides that occurred a couple of weeks ago along the UK coast been combined with wet weather, Portsmouth would have been flooded, he said.

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