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‘Gold standard’ environment pledge tarnished by lack of environmental Budget measures

Responding to the Budget, 18 environmental groups are highlighting their disappointment with the limited new initiatives and lack of funding for nature announced today.

29 October 2018

Responding to the Budget, 18 environmental groups are highlighting their disappointment with the limited new initiatives and lack of funding for nature announced today. This absence is at odds with the urgent need to tackle issues such as climate change, plastic pollution, soil erosion, flooding, spiralling wildlife declines and to create a nature-friendly farming future.

Rapid, dramatic, and fully-funded environmental commitments are needed, with only a decade to stop the massive problems of plastic pollution and climate change hitting an irreversible tipping point, and only 30 years of fertile soils left.

Dr Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘The Prime Minister and Secretary of State say they want to set a global gold standard for the environment. Yet that promise has been tarnished by the limited environmental measures announced by the Chancellor in today’s Budget. With only a decade to turn the tide on plastic pollution and limit the catastrophic impacts of climate change, and little longer to save our soils, the environment must be a top Government priority if our children, our wildlife and our planet are not to pay a terrible price.’

Packaging and plastics

Measures announced today to consult on a taxing plastics that are less than 30% recycled material fall massively under expectations and need. The lack of a latte-levy is equally disappointing given the success of similar plastic bag charges. Promises of action on producer responsibility from the Secretary of State are welcome but obviously the devil will be in the detail.
With the amount of plastic in our seas set to triple in just seven years, and a million seabirds and over one hundred thousand sea mammals dying annually, we need to get much more drastic on plastic.

The eNGOs have published a briefing on how the Government can show greater ambition on packaging and plastics by, for example:
• Identifying, and prioritising the urgent phasing out of the most harmful, unnecessary, and hard-to-recycle single-use plastics
• Setting item specific taxes and reduction targets for ALL single-use plastics and packaging (except for essential uses e.g. medical and disability use) to encourage a shift to reusable and lower-impact alternatives
• Improving measures to make producers much more liable for packaging disposal and recycling costs. This could drive new investment in sustainable, reusable products and packaging and UK recycling infrastructure. At present, 90% of the costs of dealing with waste fall on consumers and local authorities, meaning the UK is lagging behind on recycling
• Feeding revenue from fees and taxes back into tackling our ocean of plastic pollution
• Introducing strict monitoring and evaluation of new taxes and charges, with levels being regularly reviewed and revised if they are not affecting change

Sarah Baulch, Senior Oceans Campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: ‘The only way to turn the plastic tide is to hit plastic producers where it hurts – their pockets. While the proposed tax is welcome, it addresses only the very tip of the plastic iceberg. The government must set ambitious reduction targets and taxes across all single use plastics. Until retailers and producers are forced to foot the bill for the devastating environmental costs associated with the throwaway culture they facilitate, they lack incentive to slash their plastic footprint and switch to reusable and refillable packaging.’

Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Officer from the Marine Conservation Society said: 'These moves don’t go far enough. We need wholesale changes with a focus on reduction to prevent our oceans becoming a plastic soup. The only way to turn the plastic tide is for the Government to drive through major changes in producer and consumer behaviour through a range of charges, taxes, incentives and targets. With evidence of fraud and misuse in our plastic recycling industry we must also tackle our inability to recycle our own waste, by investing in our domestic recycling infrastructure.’

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: ‘We’re currently in the middle of a plastics pollution crisis and yet the Chancellor failed to take even small steps towards stemming the flow of single use plastics by choosing not to introduce a tax on disposable coffee cups and ignoring calls for a tax on brand new plastic. Philip Hammond claims he cares about restoring nature for the next generation, but this Budget represents a major fail in delivering on this vision.’

Ben Seal, Places to Paddle Manager at British Canoeing, ‘While the limited plastic tax announced today is welcome, it is simply not enough to turn the tide. Canoeists and other water users are acutely aware that our waterways and seas are increasingly becoming clogged with plastic and litter. If we are to grip this issue and really protect these precious habitats for wildlife and for our future generations, then the Government needs to act decisively by taxing all single use plastic to incentivise slashing production. Revenue raised from plastic taxes must also be ring-fenced for measures to tackle our growing plastic problem.’

Farming With Nature

Farmers’ ability to grow food is entirely dependent on a healthy environment and thriving nature, and farmers are essential environmental stewards. Although the Agriculture Bill promises to support farmers to produce food more sustainably and humanely, this will not be realised unless Government commits to funding in the long-term. We are therefore disappointed not to see firm commitments today to future farming spend beyond 2022, for the environmental restoration we desperately need.

Almost one in six UK species (one in five mammals) are at risk of extinction, farmland birds have halved since 1970 and half our bumblebees and 71% of butterflies are in long term decline. The decline in the environment is matched by falling farming profits, with total income from farming in England estimated to have fallen 36% between 2013 and 2016.

Without long-term certainty on the funding available, both farmers and nature will continue to suffer.

Abi Bunker, Director of Conservation at the Woodland Trust said: ‘Ten million pounds for tree-planting and fifty million in carbon credits for woodland-planting landowners, while a welcome start, is only a step in the right direction to re-green our deforested country and tackle our climate change crisis. The problem is greater than just having the funds to deliver increased tree planting. As well as more money we need clarity about how land use will be supported post Brexit, regulations that are easier to understand, more accessible grants schemes and better connection between those creating woodland and the wider societal benefits.

‘It is worrying that the thirty billion road investment throws a shadow over this announcement, particularly as many of our ancient woods and trees would be under threat from new road developments. The scale of loss of street trees we’ve seen in places like Sheffield has been horrific. The £10m promised for new urban trees won’t go far. When compared to the losses we have recently seen, it is doubtful that there will even be a net uplift in tree numbers with that investment. It is essential that as we plant trees and create new woodland, we protect existing trees and woodland at the same time.’

David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at the RSPCA, said: ‘Certainty over farm subsidies is essential to help farmers invest in the changes needed to improve farm animals’ lives and to help wildlife thrive. As the Government has not confirmed long term farming funding today we urge them to do so as soon as possible to help stop animals suffering and reverse the long-term decline in nature to which intensive farming is contributing.’

Russel Hobson, Butterfly Conservation Director of Policy and Land Use, said: ‘We are disappointed that the ambition set out in the Budget does not mirror the ambition set out in the 25 year plan and the stated aspirations of the devolved administrations. Our declining butterflies and moths need sustained funding to support sustainable farming, forestry and other land management. Our future well-being relies on the opportunity for people to experience neighbourhoods rich in wildlife.’

Professor Fiona Mathews, Chair of the Mammal Society, said: ‘Hedgehogs, water voles, red squirrels and wildcats, all these much-loved creatures could disappear from our shores in the near future. One in five of British Mammals at high risk of extinction, with urbanisation and farming cutting away their habitats. Welcome moves to reward farmers who improve the environment need long-term funding certainty in order to make the dramatic changes needed to reverse our wildlife’s decline. So we are disappointed that the Chancellor has not granted this certainty for nature today.’

Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said: ‘Access to nature is so essential to people’s health, well-being and enjoyment, but without certainty over environmentally-focussed farming subsidies in the long-term this access will inevitably decline. We urge the Government to look at the whole package of benefits that a long-term farming funding commitment would bring, from enhancing and opening up our public green spaces to helping our farming communities thrive.’

Climate Change and Fracking
The world’s leading climate change experts recently estimated we have only a dozen years to restrict climate change and limit flooding, drought, and extreme heat disaster for millions of people and our natural world. In light of this, the Government must announce new UK steps for climate change mitigation which should include: greater investment in, and incentivising of, renewables; binding targets on clean air in the Environment Act and investment to achieve these goals; and abandoning environmentally destructive support for the fracking industry.

Confirmation today of £60m for tree-planting and £30bn for road-investment – shows the Government’s scales for investment are not balancing for the environment.

Tom Fyans, Director of Campaigns and Policy at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘The disparity in investment between grey and green infrastructure contradicts the prime minister’s environmental ambitions, and the urgent need to tackle climate change. Rather than spending tens of billions on new road schemes, investment that completely undermines the tokenistic amount spent on environmental gestures such as tree planting, we need a comprehensive package of measures to tackle climate change and protect our treasured rural environment and local communities.’

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said:
‘Three weeks since the world’s leading climate scientists said governments have just 12 years to turn the tide on the catastrophic and irreversible consequences of climate change, the Chancellor has delivered a budget that reads as though he missed the memo. Preferential treatment for North Sea oil and gas, keeping the freeze on fuel duty and trimming aviation tax send all the wrong signals to some of our most polluting industries. Meanwhile, the cheapest clean energy options of onshore wind and solar remain frozen through lack of support.’

Dr Tony Gent, Chief Executive Officer of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC), said: ‘For our wildlife to thrive it needs its habitats to survive, which is why we join calls for the environment to be a budget and policy priority for Government not an afterthought.’


Notes to Editors:
• Environmental NGOs supporting this response include: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, A Rocha UK, British Canoeing, British Mountaineering Council, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, CPRE, EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency), Greenpeace, Institute of Fisheries Management, Mammal Society, Marine Conservation Society, Naturewatch Foundation, Open Spaces Society, People’s Trust for Endangered Species, RSPCA, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), The Woodland Trust.
Wildlife and Countryside Link is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 49 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. Our members campaign to conserve, enhance and access our landscapes, animals, plants, habitats, rivers and seas. Together we have the support of over eight million people in the UK and directly protect over 750,000 hectares of land and 800 miles of coastline.

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