EA calls for an end to ‘business as usual’ post-Covid

The Environment Agency (EA) released its new five-year plan on Thursday (9 July), urging the government not to return to ‘business as usual’ in its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The document, entitled ‘EA2025: Creating a better place’, outlines a new approach to promote health, equity and environmental enhancement in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The plan sets out three long-term goals: a nation resilient to climate change; healthy air, land and water; and green growth and a sustainable future.

EA officers inspect a siteIts goal of ‘green growth’ targets businesses, aiming to support them in making sustainable choices, minimising waste crime and helping to develop a circular economy. By 2025, the EA aims to have the nation on track to deliver its sustainable business commitments, such as its target of net zero by 2030.

Among its goals is reducing the number of high-risk illegal waste sites by 7.5 per cent in 2020/21 from 233 to 216 as an interim target ahead of 2025.

Last week, however, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) expressed concerns over a lack of permitting capacity at the EA and its ability to support government infrastructure plans in the wake of Prime minister Boris Johnson’s infrastructure funding announcement on 30 June).

The waste management sector has been experiencing delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the lack of permitting capacity at the EA has resulted in essential projects being delayed for months and even years in some cases.

The EA has informed clients that they may be subject to wait times of up to 12 weeks just to be allocated an officer to deal with permitting applications, presenting a significant delay to projects even in their early stages.

Commenting on the new plan, Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the EA said: “Tackling climate change must become a default position for everyone. We know that life post-lockdown presents a unique opportunity to change the way we live and work for the better.

“We have been gifted a glimpse of how we could adapt our lives and think differently about how we operate. This applies not just to us but the communities we serve, too. People are ready to think differently, and with our new five-year plan we want to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to lead the way.”

The EA’s call for a different approach as part of the Covid-19 recovery package joins environmental voices from across the world that have been calling for governments to implement a green recovery.

A coalition of experts led by the Real Circularity Coalition last month (4 June) urged governments worldwide to back the transition to a real circular economy as part of key Covid-19 recovery plans.

Most recently, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) urged the government to accelerate the transition to a circular economy as part of a Covid-19 recovery plan that prioritises the climate crisis, reiterating its call for a ban on biodegradable wastes to landfill by 2025.

Europe has taken firm action on this front. After calls in early May from a coalition of European waste management trade associations for the EU Green Deal to be made the ‘motor of Europe’s economic recovery’, the European Commission reaffirmed its commitment to circularity and its objectives to reduce Europe’s dependency on foreign materials by preventing waste, boosting recycling and increasing the use of secondary raw materials in its Covid-19 Recovery Plan.

The ‘EA2025: Creating a better place’ plan can be viewed in full on the government’s website.

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