THE BLOG

Eight Environmental Priorities For The New Government

20/06/2017 15:57 BST | Updated 20/06/2017 15:57 BST

Right now, a day is a long time in politics. In the time it takes for this blog to appear online after I press publish I wouldn't be surprised if several Ministers have resigned, at least two leadership elections have taken place and the entire membership of the House of Lords has voted to dissolve themselves in favour of an elected second chamber.

But, while the political climate is increasingly unpredictable, some things stay frighteningly certain: global temperatures are rising, threats to nature are increasing, and children in the UK are growing up with smaller lungs because of the pollution in our air. From clean air to climate change lives literally depend on urgent action from Theresa May and her new Ministers. Here's Friends of the Earth's view of what should be the most urgent entries on the new administration's environment to-do list:

1. Abolish donor secrecy in Northern Ireland

One of the issues we asked all parties to address in their manifestos has now become highly prescient: party funding in Northern Ireland is shrouded in secrecy. Donors are able to enjoy a level of anonymity, forbidden across the rest of the UK. With the DUP poised to hold the balance of power, the call for transparency deserves to be heard much more loudly. The DUP have created what our Director for Northern Ireland, James Orr, calls an 'environmental wild west'. They must not be allowed to water down already insufficient commitments to action on climate change and environmental regulation.

2. Act on climate change

Donald Trump has turned his back on the international agreement for climate action, making the US into a pariah state. Without concerted global efforts to cut carbon pollution millions of lives are put at risk. Perhaps in the light of the election result and in a unique moment of self-awareness Donald Trump reaIised he isn't very popular in the UK - and canceled his planned visit. We don't now have to roll out the red carpet but nor should we being thinking about doing trade deals with a nation setting itself against the rest of the world. The rhetorical disapproval of Trump by the government is welcome but it must be matched by real actions to demonstrate they are committed to tackling climate change here. The most urgent is to publish their long over-due Emissions Reduction Plan.

3. Invest in renewables not fossil fuels

A clear plan to respond to climate change will provide investor confidence in renewables and make sure the UK benefits from the jobs and export opportunities that a low carbon revolution offers. But this can only happen if Theresa May's government also keeps fossil fuels where they belong: in the ground. The Communities Secretary Sajid Javid will very soon decide on plans for a new open cast coal mine at the beautiful Druridge Bay in Northumberland. He must not approve these plans.

The Conservative's manifesto is seen by pundits as having contributed to their electoral woes. A majority of the public voted for parties opposed to fracking. The Conservatives must now drop their desperate and undemocratic proposals to force fracking on communities against their wishes.

4. Don't let Brexit wreck our environment

It is critical that the EU laws which protect our wildlife, and have led to cleaner beaches, water and air, are translated into UK law and are not allowed to be weakened.

The appointment of Michael Gove, who had previously argued that vital EU wildlife protection rules could be scrapped to make life easier for developers, is not at all reassuring. He must move quickly to establish himself as a reforming Secretary of State who will not just transfer existing environmental regulations into UK law but ensure these are enforced, protected from Ministerial meddling and lay the legislative groundwork to raise environmental standards and the quality of the UK's nature over time. It's a big ask, but Gove is supposed to be a politics big beast. Let's see if he can protect some of our real life little ones!

5. Get rid of diesel and back electric to deliver clean air everywhere

Right now children's lungs are being damaged by air pollution. Electric cars and Clean Air Zones offer the way forward. The Government was forced to publish its draft Air Quality Plan during the general election, but it fell woefully short of what is needed. Labour is committed to get illegal levels of air pollution under control by 2018, it's time for the Conservatives to get serious about air pollution too.

It's time to get rid of diesel and switch to electric alongside better walking and cycling facilities. A final air quality plan has to be published by 31st July and Friends of the Earth groups will be pressing MPs to demand one that is a real breath of fresh air.

6. Vote to save the bees

Another one on Michael Gove's plate. This autumn an important decision will be made by the EU on whether to extend the current restrictions on bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides to all crops and turn it into a permanent ban. The scientific evidence for a ban is overwhelming. The UK will get to vote on this issue. It must do the right thing and protect our bees.

7 Back farming that leaves a positive legacy for future generations

Farming subsidies will have to be overhauled as we leave the EU. The Conservative Party manifesto recognised the important role farmers have as stewards of our countryside. We need firm commitments that public subsidies will only be provided to farmers for public benefit, including activities that look after nature and soil for future generations.

8. Reform the Lobbying Act

Civil society is being gagged by a bureaucratic law which prevents them from speaking out about the things that matter. Friends of the Earth is part of a huge coalition of groups calling for this law to be repealed or at least reformed in line with recommendations of the independent review Theresa May herself commissioned during the last Conservative Government.

If the Prime Minister truly wants a strong global Britain, then she has to get serious about dealing with one of our biggest global threats: climate change. Now is the opportunity for Theresa May to show how Britain can be a world leader in the technologies of the future. Prospective science graduates will be working in battery storage, renewable energy and electric vehicles, not dirty oil and gas. We can lead from the front, for the benefit of our jobs, our economy and our environment.