The UK government has unveiled its new 25 year environmental plan today, in which it commits to removing all ‘avoidable’ plastic waste.
Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced the new policy in a speech in London, saying: "I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly”.
“In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls".
She announced an extension to the current 5p plastic bag charge to small retailers and government will work with larger supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles. Single-use plastics will also be removed from the government estate. The current plastic bag charge has seen a successful 85% reduction in England since its introduction in 2015.
The environmental plan seeks to address a number of key areas over the next 25 years. These include: clean air and water, minimising waste, mitigating against climate change, and enhancing the natural environment. The government announced earlier this week a plan to create a new 120-mile stretch of forest in the north of England.
Other policies in the plan include supporting farmers to turn fields into habitats for wildlife, creating 500,000 hectares of new habitat for endangered species and extending the UK’s network of marine protected areas.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Respecting nature’s intrinsic value and making sure we are wise stewards of our natural world is critical if we are to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.
Through this plan we will build on our reputation as a global leader in environmental protection, creating an environment everyone can enjoy and helping the next generation flourish”.
Greenpeace UK responded by saying that there wasn’t enough in the plan to meet the pressing environmental challenges right now. Executive Director, John Sauven, said: “Britain’s natural environment needs a 25-month emergency plan more than it needs a 25-year vision. If the government’s aim is to get through to young voters, they need to offer change that happens before these youths turn middle age. They should start by rolling out more robust and swift measures to stop plastic waste harming our oceans, clean up illegal air pollution and support the clean energy sources that can help stop climate change”.
Friends of the Earth’s Chief Executive, Craig Bennett, also said progress was needed sooner rather than later, commenting: “A long-term vison for protecting our environment is essential, but the government can’t keep turning a blind eye to the urgent action needed now to protect our health and planet from toxic air and climate-wrecking pollution.
He added: “25 years is a long way off – particularly for a government that might not last 25 weeks. We need action now”
Published on Climate Action Programme on January 11, 2018
Human rights and environment
In recent years, the recognition of the links between human rights and the environment has greatly increased. The number and scope of international and domestic laws, judicial decisions, and academic studies on the relationship between human rights and the environment have grown rapidly.
Many States now incorporate a right to a healthy environment in their constitutions. Many questions about the relationship of human rights and the environment remain unresolved, however, and require further examination.
As a result, in March 2012 the Human Rights Council decided to establish a mandate on human rights and the environment, which will (among other tasks) study the human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and promote best practices relating to the use of human rights in environmental policymaking.
Mr. John Knox was appointed in August 2012 to a three-year term as the first Independent Expert on human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. His mandate was further extended in March 2015 for another three years as a Special Rapporteur.
The resolution 16/11 adopted by the Human Rights Council on 12th of April 2011 entitled “Human Rights and the environment” requested the Office of the High Commissioner “in consultation with and taking into account the views of States Members of the United Nations, relevant international organizations and intergovernmental bodies, including the United Nations Environment Programme and relevant multilateral environmental agreements, special procedures, treaty bodies and other stakeholders, to conduct, within existing resources, a detailed analytical study on the relationship between human rights and the environment” (para.1).
See also the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes
Human rights and climate change
In its 5th Assessment Report (2014), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) unequivocally confirmed that climate change is real and that human-made greenhouse gas emissions are its primary cause. The report identified the increasing frequency of extreme weather events and natural disasters, rising sea-levels, floods, heat waves, droughts, desertification, water shortages, and the spread of tropical and vector-borne diseases as some of the adverse impacts of climate change. These phenomena directly and indirectly threaten the full and effective enjoyment of a range of human rights by people throughout the world, including the rights to life, water and sanitation, food, health, housing, self-determination, culture and development.