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Bishop Welcomes Government Green Plan

by Gerry Lynch last modified 30 Jan, 2018 04:58 PM

Bishop Nicholas welcomes government ambition on environment

Bishop Nicholas spoke in the House of Lords debate on the government’s 25-year plan on the environment yesterday.

The Bishop welcomed the new plan as a significant change of mindset, but also called for more work to translate ambition into action.

“A Green Future is a significant change of mindset and very much to be welcomed”, said Bishop Nicholas, “The plan will be the basis for holding Her Majesty’s Government to account. Having set the direction, there now needs to be considerable work to translate ambition into action. Out of 44 success criteria in the plan, only 11 are what could be called smart objectives. As currently set out, these success criteria go only a small way to explain how the plan’s actions will serve to meet the goals.”

Reducing plastics waste, implicated in devastating impacts on wildlife and especially parts of the human food chain living in the oceans, was one example of an area where more flesh needed to be put on a laudable government framework.

“The ambition in relation to plastics is laudable”, he continued, “but there needs to be more to boost our stalled recycling rates. In 2015, they fell for the first time in more than a decade. There is a proposal to extend the 5p plastic bag charge, but nothing about charging for disposable coffee cups, of which only one in 400 is recycled. The plans do not include a bottle collection scheme. Every day, 38.5 million plastic bottles and 20 million aluminium cans are sold across the UK. Evidence from other countries such as the US, Norway and Germany shows that introducing a simple deposit on plastic bottles and cans can raise collection rates above 90% and reduce litter, so it is disappointing that the plan does not follow the recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee for a legislated deposit returns scheme for plastic drinks bottles. The Scottish Government committed to that at the end of last year. Will this be revisited by Her Majesty’s Government?”

Bishop Nicholas was also concerned that post-Brexit arrangements for environmental regulation in the UK maintain, at the very least, existing standards, saying, “the EU has the power to fine the UK for breaches of environmental standards. It is not yet clear whether the proposed UK environmental watchdog will have the same power, so I have sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, and those who have suggested that there needs to be an environment Act to do for the restoration of nature what the Climate Change Act is doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; that is, by creating stronger accountability for such an important matter.”

The bishop has heard deep concern over many years from fellow Anglican bishops about the devastation climate change is causing to their countries, especially in Africa and the Pacific, so it was natural that he took this opportunity to raise international dimension of climate policy in Parliament.

“We are still a long way from agreements that will meet the two degrees Celsius target”, he argued, “yet we know that, to be effective, change needs to be front-loaded. Christian Aid and CAFOD, the British churches’ aid agencies, have identified that the UK Government’s overall spending in developing countries continues to be more on fossil fuels than renewable energy.” 

Finally, Bishop Nicholas referred to housing policy where, he said, “there is a laudable ambition to build many new homes. For them to be energy efficient with low or zero-carbon emissions, that will not be achieved by deregulation. Specific targets need to be set for different parts of the plan which can identify quick wins and recognise the most urgent actions so that we develop changed actions and new habits capable of furthering this admirable plan.”

The full text of Bishop Nicholas’ speech to the House of Lords is available here.

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