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Environment Environment

Produce a comprehensive 25 Year Plan to improve the environment

Last updated: 08:55pm 25 November 2019

We pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. That is why we shall produce a comprehensive 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.26

Our verdict

A report by the Natural Capital Committee (NCC) in 2014 proposed that a governmental 25-year environment plan should be put in place “to maintain and improve England’s natural capital within this generation” – an idea endorsed by the Conservative government at the time. This subsequent 2017 manifesto pledge is firstly a promise to “be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it”, and secondly a promise to produce a plan to achieve that. We can’t measure the success of the broad generational promise but we can look at the rigour and the “comprehensive” extent of the proposed plan.

On 11 January 2018 the government published its 25 Year Environment Plan, A Green Future. The plan set out to achieve the following:

  • Clean air
  • Clean and plentiful water
  • Thriving plants and wildlife
  • A reduced risk of harm from environmental hazards such as flooding and drought
  • Using resources from nature more sustainably and efficiently
  • Enhanced beauty, heritage and engagement with the natural environment.

In addition, the plan committed to mitigating and adapting to climate change; minimising waste; managing exposure to chemicals; and enhancing biosecurity.

At first glance, then, it appears this policy promise has been kept. Indeed, in May 2019, the government published a progress report, claiming that “in the first year alone, 90% of the plan’s actions have been delivered or are being progressed”. That sounds impressive, but also surprising, given that the plan is intended to cover a quarter of a century.

The NCC published its response to that progress report in September 2019 and it was damning:

“The Progress Report fails to provide an assessment of whether the natural environment in England has improved.”

“Progress cannot be measured until…[an environmental] baseline is established.”

We don’t believe a plan the government’s own advisory committee deems so flawed can be considered “comprehensive”. The government has published a 25-year environmental plan, but in light of the NCC’s criticisms we’re leaving this as ‘in progress’.

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