DEFRA plan lacks ambition, urgency and coherence says MCS


Carrier bag on beach – Marine Conservation Society image

The UK Prime Minister described the publishing today of the report “A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment” as outlining the “strong ambitions” of the Government department Defra in its programme of protecting and enhancing the environment. But the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says it is extremely disappointed by the lack of new commitments and concrete actions included in the report and says that an opportunity has been missed to tackle the many threats facing our marine environment.

Public statements by ministers in the run-up to the report promised that much would be done to deal with the huge volume of ocean plastic pollution, but a stated commitment to achieving zero avoidable plastic waste by 2043 does not give enough focus to the urgent problem our marine environment faces. Some very quick and easy opportunities, called for in recent Environment Audit Committee reports, for example, to consider a Deposit Return Scheme on bottles and other containers are lacking. Much was made of the success of the carrier bag charge in England in May’s speech, but the report commits only to a voluntary approach to implement it in smaller shops.

Dr Chris Tuckett, Head of Programmes at the Marine Conservation Society, says:

“We welcome the overall aims of the plan outlining Defra’s priorities for the next 25 years. However, most of the commitments given have, in truth, been announced previously. We had expected more ambition in the department’s intentions, especially in tackling pollution, and in ensuring that environmental laws are strengthened post-Brexit.

Twenty-five years is a very long time. We are disappointed by the lack of commitment to take action now to address existing problems. We urgently need to see much more done to stop the tide of plastic entering our oceans, and an aspiration to eliminate “avoidable” plastic waste by 2042 is just not sufficient. In particular, deposit return schemes on containers, and levies on items such as coffee cups, bans on plastic straws are all simple things that could be done immediately without the need for prolonged consultation. Our beach survey data has shown a shocking rise in the amount of litter in our oceans and we urgently need to tackle single-use plastic as a first step.”

Dr Tuckett continues “There is also work to do, very quickly, to apply environmental laws strongly post-Brexit and to implement management measures to protect our seas. Consultation this year on conservation zones for English seas is welcome, but this network will need to be backed up by management measures that have been largely left out for such sites to date. If the government wants our seas to be in better condition for the next generation, then they must fast-track management of these largely unprotected areas.”

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