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‘An opportunity has been missed’

Government's plan for Nature ‘fails to deliver’, says Marine Conservation Society
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Tarutao national park, Thailand

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has said that Defra’s 25-year environment plan lacks ambition, urgency and coherence.

Lack of new commitments

According to Theresa May, the report ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’ outlines the ‘strong ambitions’ of the government department Defra in its programme for protecting and enhancing the environment.

But the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is ‘extremely disappointed’ by the lack of new commitments and concrete actions included in the report. The charity says ‘an opportunity has been missed to tackle the many threats facing our marine environment’.

‘We welcome the overall aims of the plan outlining Defra’s priorities for the next 25 years. However, most of the commitments given have, in truth, been announced previously. We had expected more ambition in the department’s intentions, especially in tackling pollution, and in ensuring that environment laws are strengthened post-Brexit.’

Head of programmes at the Marine Conservation Society

Tackling an urgent issue

Public statements by ministers in the run-up to the report promised that much would be done to deal with the huge volume of ocean plastic pollution. However, the MCS says the commitment to achieve zero avoidable plastic waste by 2043 doesn’t place enough focus on the urgent problem our marine environment faces.

Dr Chris Tuckett, the MCS’s head of programmes, said that there’s work to do if we’re going to implement management measures to protect our seas, and ensure environmental laws are applied strictly in a post-Brexit world.

He added that while consultation this year on conservation zones for English seas ‘is welcome’, the government ‘must fast-track management of these largely unprotected areas’ if it wants our seas to be in better condition for the next generation.

‘Twenty five years is a very long time. We are disappointed by the lack of commitment to take action now to address existing problems. We urgently need to see much more done to stop the tide of plastic entering our oceans, and an aspiration to eliminate ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042 is just not sufficient

‘In particular, deposit return schemes on containers, and levies on items such as coffee cups, bans on plastic straws are all simple things that could be done immediately without the need for prolonged consultation. Our beach survey data has shown a shocking rise in the amount of litter in our oceans and we urgently need to tackle single-use plastic as a first step.’

Head of programmes at the Marine Conservation Society

May’s speech made a lot of the success of the carrier bag charge in England, but the report commits only to a voluntary approach to implement it in smaller shops.

The plan lacks some very quick and easy opportunities which were called for in recent Environment Audit Committee reports. One example is the consideration of a Deposit Return Scheme on bottles and other containers.


Theresa May said the government will work with supermarkets to explore the introduction of a plastic-free aisles, where all the food is sold loose.

Plastic-free aisles are the brainchild of environmental activist group A Plastic Planet. The group has been calling for the measure since February 2017, and is supported by celebrity campaigners Vivienne Westwood and Ben Fogle as well as supermarket CEOs.

Click here to add your name to the call for supermarkets to introduce a plastic-free aisle.

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