Conservatives plan to ‘take control’ of environmental legislation
The Conservatives have reiterated plans for a 25-year environment plan and pledged to support better packaging and rubbish collection in a pre-election manifesto lacking any depth on resources or their management.
The Conservative platform, entitled ‘Forward, Together: Our plan for a stronger Britain and a prosperous future’, focuses on the need for ‘strong and stable’ leadership through the Brexit process ‘and beyond’, pledging extra funding for the NHS, the scrapping of the triple-lock on the state pension and a shake-up of social care provisions. It also, perhaps much like the previous government’s actions, gives very little thrift to the environment or natural resources.
While the Liberal Democrat manifesto featured a raft of policy proposals revolving around waste, resources and the move towards a circular economy (including a Zero-Waste Act, food waste and recycling targets and more waste disposal taxes), the Conservative plan explicitly mentions the environment only a few times.
The 88-page document does address waste collections once, stating: ‘We will do more to reduce litter, including by supporting comprehensive rubbish collection and recycling, supporting better packaging, taking new powers to force councils to remove roadside litter and prosecuting offenders.’
It does, however, not give any indication of how it will support either collections or packaging development.
The manifesto also sees the party pledge ‘to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it’ and as such promises to produce ‘a comprehensive 25-Year Environment Plan’ that charts how the UK can improve its environment post-Brexit and ‘take control of our environmental legislation again’.
Such a document has been promised by the Conservative government for over a year now, with first the EU referendum and then upheaval following Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle delaying its publication. A leaked version seen by the BBC reportedly ‘lacked policies and practical solutions’ in April.
A five-year plan was released last February ahead of the longer-term policy document, but gained the ire of the waste and resources industry after it mentioned resources only once in the form of developing new approaches to combat waste crime.
‘Lead the world’ in environmental protection
As well as being the greatest environmental generation regarding the UK environment, the Conservatives also set out a desire to ‘lead the world in environmental protection’, suggesting that it will do this by leading action against climate change, championing greater conservation co-operation within international bodies, protecting rare species, the polar regions and international waters.
Speaking of environmental protections, the manifesto also pledges to preserve those developed in Europe by enacting the Great Repeal Bill, which the government has already confirmed will carry over ‘the whole body’ of European environmental legislation in preparation for Brexit. The Labour manifesto published this week pledged to drop the bill, replacing it with an EU Rights and Protections Bill, though it was not clear how the two would differ.
The final mention of the environment, with none given to resource management itself, is the description of the discovery and extraction of shale gas as ‘a revolution’ that ‘could play a crucial role in rebalancing our economy’.
Both Labour and the Green party announced plans to ban fracking in their respective manifestos, but the Conservatives have committed to develop its use in Britain ‘if we maintain public confidence in the process, if we uphold our rigorous environmental protections, and if we ensure the proceeds of the wealth generated by shale energy are shared with the communities affected’.
The full Conservative manifesto can be read on the party’s website.