Ministers have published the long-awaited 25-year environment plan to reverse declining wildlife and secure clean air and water, reduced flood risk and more efficient resource use.
The environment plan was promised in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, alongside a 25-year food and farming plan, but publication was delayed several times amid the shifting circumstances of Brexit and changes in environment secretary.
A leaked draft of the plan in circulation last year – which, according to Prime Minister Theresa May’s former communications chief Katie Perrior, then environment secretary Andrea Leadsom was told to make “as boring as possible” – was criticised as lacking policies.
Having a separate 25-year farming plan was criticised as splitting two interwoven areas, and it has been brought into the final environment plan.
The published plan aims to achieve long-term goals in six areas: clean air, clean and plentiful water, thriving plants and wildlife, a reduced risk of harm from environmental hazards such as flooding and drought, using resources from nature more sustainably and efficiently and enhanced beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment.
It also aims to manage pressures on the environment by tackling climate change, minimising waste, managing exposure to chemicals and enhancing biosecurity – protecting livestock and wildlife from diseases, pests and invasive species.
The plan include proposes to:
Eliminate avoidable plastic waste within 25 years, including by encouraging supermarkets to introduce “plastic-free” aisles and considering taxes and charges on single-use items such as takeaway containers;
Extend the 5p charge for plastic carrier bags to all retailers in England, closing the Government’s loophole excluding smaller shops;
Support water companies, retailers, coffee shops and transport hubs to offer new refill points for people to top-up water bottles free in every major city and town in England;
Direct aid spending towards helping developing nations reduce plastic use;
Strengthen protections in planning to ensure new developments deliver for nature, protect habitats such as ancient woodlands and build new homes to high environmental standards;
Create a new Northern Forest stretching from Cheshire to Lancashire and Yorkshire, plant a million street trees and appoint a “national tree champion”;
Develop a new “nature recovery network” to create or restore 500,000 hectares (1.24 million acres) of wildlife-rich habitat outside existing protected areas, with opportunities to reintroduce species;
Designate the third tranche of marine conservation zones around the seas, consulting on the move in the first half of 2018 and designating them 12 months later;
Commission a 21st century review of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty;
Establish a £10 million nature friendly schools programme to allow pupils to plant gardens, tend vegetable patches and set up bird feeders;
Look at how NHS mental health providers in England could work with environmental voluntary sector organisations to offer mental health therapies;
End the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040;
Set up a world-leading independent statutory body to hold government to account on the environment after Britain leaves the European Union.
Develop a set of measures to assess progress on the 25-year goals and refresh the plan regularly.