THE ambition behind the Government’s new environmental plans is “terrific”, and shows it to be “caring for God’s creation”, the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, has said.
Bishop Holtam, the Church’s lead bishop on environmental issues, said last week that it was good news that the environment had become a priority, and that there was “a recognition of the state we are in”.
It was “a very significant document”, Bishop Holtam said, and accompanied by a “very significant speech”.
The plan was unveiled by the Prime Minister on Thursday of last week. The Government is to introduce a raft of proposals designed to eliminate all avoidable plastic by 2042.
Speaking at the launch of the Government’s new 25-year environmental plan, the Prime Minister announced a war on plastic waste, calling it “one of the great environmental scourges of our time. . . In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly.”
Mrs May pledged that the Government would “take action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic”, starting by banning consumer single-use plastic in central-government offices.
The 5p levy on plastic bags would be extended to all shops in order “to help achieve our goal of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste”.
Bishop Holtam remarked that the 25-year time-scale “does look slow”, but continued: “The most important thing at the moment is to welcome it.” He did, however, consider that, at present, there was “not enough detail [in the plan] to be really sure what they are going to do”.
Besides tackling plastic, Mrs May promised that the Government would introduce policies “to make Britain a world leader in tackling the abuse of animals”.
The Government has also announced plans to help wildlife by introducing 500,000 new hectares of habitat for endangered species and will provide £5.7 million to kick-start a new Northern Forest, where 50 million trees will be planted between Liverpool and Hull (News, 12 January).
Mrs May insisted that the Conservative Party had a good record on the environment. Nor would the European policing of environmental standards be missed: the Government, she said, would “use the opportunity Brexit provides to strengthen and enhance our environmental protections — not to weaken them”.
Bishop Holtam said he was glad to see a pledge for a “greener Brexit”, one which might calm fears about damage to environmental protection.
Political opponents were sceptical about the scope and timescale of the plans. Sue Hayman, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said that the plan was “a cynical attempt at rebranding the Tories’ image, and appears to contain only weak proposals”.
Christian agencies were more optimistic. The head of global policy at Christian Aid, Dr Alison Doig, said that it was great to see the Government’s new plans. “God’s creation is not something for us to simply use and abuse, but to cherish, protect, and pass on.
“Unfortunately, we have not taken good care of it, and so we have a job on our hands to restore it, not least the perilous state of our climate which threatens the well-being of everyone.”
A senior policy adviser at the development and relief charity Tearfund, Joanne Green, said: “The Government has woken up to the world’s waste crisis. Uncollected trash blights life chances in poor communities and chokes the oceans, and this announcement clears the way to a solution.”
A new partnership between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Environment Programme has been launched to tackle environmental health risks, which the UN says cause millions of deaths a year.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO said: “Our health is directly related to the health of the environment we live in. Together, air, water, and chemical hazards kill some 12.6 million people a year. This cannot and must not continue.”
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