A look at the government’s green policies

“It is imperative we build back both better and greener from the coronavirus pandemic – with a renewed and enhanced focus on protecting the environment, reducing emissions and bolstering our resilience to climate change.”

But campaigners point to a dire track record that has already plundered the environment more than saved it – and highlight “greenwash” legislation on the horizon.  

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The UK government has made several commitments to the environment of late:

“Building back greener with clean wind energy” – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Creating a nature recovery network for East Devon and the UK – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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Some say it could go further, however, including the government’s own Committee on Climate Change:

A green new deal for the UK? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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Nevertheless, the government has committed to the COP26 UN climate negotiations in Glasgow, rescheduled to next year:

Climate explained: does a delay in COP26 climate talks hit our efforts to reduce carbon emissions?

HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021

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And the UK government has made further commitments at the UN – on biodiversity:

Prime Minister’s speech at the UN High-Level summit on biodiversity: 30 September 2020 – GOV.UK

Biodiversity: Boris Johnson signs United Nations pledge to tackle problem – BBC News

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It has, however, missed its own targets:

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‘Nature is in crisis right now’: UK’s biodiversity loss highlighted in ‘damning’ government report

A government report into the action being taken to fight biodiversity loss in the UK paints a grim picture of the natural world and the finances available to restore and preserve ecosystems.

Using 24 key biodiversity indicators, the report found 14 are in long-term decline, including UK habitats of European importance, the abundance and distribution of priority species, farmland and woodland birds, and fish size classes in the North Sea. The report also reveals just 0.02% of UK GDP now goes towards funding biodiversity after cuts in public sector investment in conservation amounted to a real-terms fall of 33 per cent in just five years.

Dr Richard Benwell, chief executive of the Wildlife and Countryside Link – an umbrella organisation comprised of institutions including the National Trust, RSPB, the Marine Conservation Society, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth – told The Independent funding cuts had resulted in “relentlessly bad results for habitats and species”…

‘Nature is in crisis right now’: UK’s biodiversity loss highlighted in ‘damning’ government report | The Independent

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As has been pointed out by many, UK government infrastructure projects will cause further biodiversity loss – as reported regularly in the Telegraph (paywall):

HS2 rail link ‘will destroy irreplaceable ancient woodland’ (2016)

Anti-HS2 campaigners join forces with Extinction Rebellion to save ‘Britain’s Amazon’ (2019)

‘All this will be destroyed by HS2’ (2020)

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The latest edition of the West Country Byline Times does not mince its words:

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Stuart Spray looks at the discrepancy between the Prime Minister’s United Nations pledge to protect the environment, and his actions on HS2

At a virtual United Nations event last week, the Prime Minister signed a global pledge along with 65 world leaders to reverse losses in biodiversity “both at home and on the international stage”. He promised to increase the amount of protected land in the UK from 26% to 30% by 2030, saying that the Government was “absolutely committed to tackling biodiversity loss”.

On the same day as the announcement, the UK’s HS2 railway project started felling ancient woodland at sites along its route, including South Cubbington Wood in Warwickshire and Calvert Jubilee Nature Reserve in Buckinghamshire…

Boris Johnson’s Biodiversity Hypocrisy – Byline Times

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And today’s Huffington Post provides a scathing review of the government’s upcoming legislative programme: click on the link for the detail:

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8 Ways The Government Has Slashed Its Own Environmental Promises

Boris Johnson is keen to portray the UK as a global leader in environmental policy. But what does his track record really tell us?

“Bounce back greener”, the “green recovery”, a government that will “lead that green industrial revolution”.  Boris Johnson’s verdant rhetoric in recent weeks – particularly in the wake of Covid-19 – certainly paints a picture of better days to come, with promises to prioritise climate change and to make the UK “a world leader in low-cost clean power generation”.

But how serious is he?

Campaigners point to a dire track record that has already plundered the environment more than saved it – and highlight “greenwash” legislation on the horizon.  

“His government has voted down crucial amendments that would have tackled overfishing and protected our food standards from dodgy trade deals,” Greenpeace’s policy director Dr Doug Parr told HuffPost UK. “For all the high-flown rhetoric about the green recovery, the UK government has spent 10 times less on it than France, and even less compared to Germany. The prime minister said that climate action should not become a victim of Covid but, for now, it looks like that’s exactly where we are.”  

Here’s what we know about how the government is shaping up so far:

Environment Bill

Fisheries Bill 

Agriculture Bill

Water quality

Planning

Deposit return scheme

Green recovery spending 

Post-Brexit legislation 

In reference to the above points raised by HuffPost UK, a Defra spokesperson said: “It is imperative we build back both better and greener from the coronavirus pandemic – with a renewed and enhanced focus on protecting the environment, reducing emissions and bolstering our resilience to climate change. Our £40m green recovery challenge fund will bring forward funding to help charities and environmental organisations start work on projects across England to restore nature and tackle climate change.”

8 Ways The Government Has Slashed Its Own Environmental Promises | HuffPost UK

   
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