The 25 Year Environment Plan: reasons to look on the bright side

After months of anticipation the UK's 25 Year Environment Plan was launched yesterday. Unlike some others, I believe it is a positive step. These are my top reasons to look on the bright side:

The 25 Year Environment Plan: reasons to look on the bright side
  • The plan was launched by the Prime Minister and clearly positioned as a cross Governmental strategy.  This is backed up with strong links to the Industrial and Clean Growth Strategies. Inclusion of climate change mitigation, as well as adaptation, as a priority reinforces the links.

  • Having a 25-year plan acknowledges that we need a comprehensive change programme and the challenges won’t be solved within one term of office. I would hope that future Governments decide to double down efforts towards these ambitions in their own way, rather than starting again.

  • The Prime Minister made numerous references to the opportunity to reshape legislation, regulation and incentives as we leave the EU, with a firm commitment to ensuring that the process enables the UK to be a global leader in environmental protection, including tackling climate change, sustainable food production and marine health.

  • A strong focus on innovative and collaborative approaches to our shared challenges is important. We were delighted that BITC’s projects focused on water resilient cities and  supporting food supply chains with environmental stewardship were included as examples of what is possible. Responsible business will be at the heart of this new approach and we are increasingly seeing business tapping into the value that solving environmental challenges presents. 

  • Nature is recognised as having intrinsic value and underpinning our future prosperity and wellbeing.  The ambition to reconnect people, particularly young people with the environment, reinforcing the role of a healthy environment in addressing social justice and improving health outcomes moves the environment to the heart of tackling social challenges. A natural capital approach to decision making has potential to improve the way we incorporate the value nature provides, if done well.

  • The plan recognises the importance of enabling the environment to ‘regain and retain good health’, where nature can thrive and people can enjoy the beauty of landscapes, as well as relieving pressures from chemicals, waste and climate change impacts. This is a welcome shift towards creating something positive, rather than just reducing negative impacts.

  • The commitment to ensuring a net environmental gain from development with resilience central, alongside new support systems for farmers and fisheries that put the health of soil, water and biodiversity as key outcomes, will help to drive progress. 

  • The creation of a new ‘world leading’ environmental watchdog will be a powerful force for good if it is given the right powers to enable the plan’s ambitions to be achieved.

So, while I agree with some of the critics that the 25 year time horizon creates a risk that action will be pushed into the future and that there is still a lot of detail missing, I welcome the plan.  The opportunity for those of us who are committed to accelerating progress is to urge the Government to take swift and decisive action sooner rather than later, then apply pressure to ensure that the promises made in the plan are delivered.  However, I completely agree that securing a sustainable future is a task for all of us and we also need to find ways that we can, individually and together, catalyse change in the way we value and steward the environment that provides for all our needs.  I’m up for it and BITC members are too.  We are looking forward to collaborating widely to help drive progress towards a prosperous and sustainable future for all.  I hope you will join us.    

Gudrun Cartwright – Environment Director at BITC

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