The PM’s environment speech – the reaction

Theresa May by Controller of HMSO, via Wikimedia Commons

Responses to Theresa May’s environment speech:


Greenpeace: We need a 25-month emergency plan for nature, not a 25-year vision

Commenting on Theresa May’s speech on the environment and the publication of the government’s 25-year plan for nature, Greenpeace UK’s 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.

“If Theresa May wants to persuade people this is more than just husky-hugging, she needs to put some joined-up thinking at the heart of her strategy. You can’t claim to care about climate change and our countryside and then back fracking, or care about the next generation and then let air pollution harm our kids’ health.

“The environment is now a mainstream concern in this country, with millions of people caring deeply about it. Theresa May has a unique opportunity to rise to the challenge and make Britain a global leader in environmental protection. She should not waste it.’.


Friends of the Earth: We can’t afford to wait 25 years to tackle threats to our health and the planet

Reacting to Theresa May’s green speech and publication of the government’s 25 year plan for the environment today, Friends of the Earth’s CEO Craig Bennett who attended the Prime Minister’s speech and launch of the government’s 25 year environment plan said:

‘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.

It’s time to stop tinkering at the margins and get to the heart of the problems – especially the nation’s fossil fuels addiction.

Ministers must pull the plug on coal, gas and oil, end its support for fracking and develop the UK’s huge renewable power potential.

25 years is a long way off – particularly for a government that might not last 25 weeks. We need action now.’.

Commenting on the government’s pledge to end avoidable plastic waste in 25 years, Friends of the Earth waste campaigner Julian Kirby said: 

“If it’s avoidable waste, why is it taking us a quarter of a century to get there? The government – and Mr. Gove in particular – have made bold statements about ending plastic pollution, but so far their record doesn’t match the rhetoric.

Under the Conservatives, English recycling rates have stalled and we’re burning ever more recyclable waste, even though in 2010 they committed to a ‘zero waste economy’.

Plastic pollution is toxic for life and must be stopped at source – governments must act now to ensure the firms responsible for creating this plastic mess take responsibility clearing it up and preventing it.”



The plan is a strong start, and it’s good to see the government putting the environment firmly on the agenda. But, we need to see them going further and faster. If we wait until 2042 to end plastic waste, as the plan suggests, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.

We want to see a ban on single-use plastic by 2025, and more urgent action on dirty air, climate change and protecting our precious natural heritage.

Why we need this plan

Back in 2011 the government promised we would be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.

The 25 Year Environment Plan is their long-term vision for how we’ll achieve this.

Everyone depends on nature. It underpins our economy and our wellbeing, from the food we eat to the air we breathe.

But our environment is in crisis and it’s getting worse: sea mammals and birds are being killed by plastic litter, people are being poisoned by air pollution, and flooding is costing our economy billions.

The tide can be turned and the government’s plan includes some bold ambitions for making this happen.

The UK can be a global champion for the planet

The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, importing food and other goods from all over the planet.

As the UK looks to strike trade deals with other countries when it leaves the EU, we can’t allow short-term gains to come at the expense of people and nature overseas. That’s why we’ve been talking to the government on the need for the plan to have a global vision.

We’re pleased that it includes commitments to keep the protection of species at the top of the international agenda.

The Prime Minister announced steps to tackle the plastic pollution crisis wrecking our oceans, such as extending the 5p plastic bag levy and supporting plastic-free supermarket aisles.

These are all positive steps, but they don’t go far enough fast enough.

We need to move towards an end to single-use plastics now, or our oceans will choke on litter.

On air pollution, which causes 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year, it’s good to see a target to halve its health impacts by 2030. But we still believe the ban on petrol and diesel cars must happen sooner.

The government must deliver on its ambitions.

This could be a turning point for the UK’s relationship with the environment, where we begin to restore nature rather than destroy it.

The plan is an important first step, but the commitments will only become a reality if they are backed by the force of law, money and a new environmental watchdog with the power to make sure the government lives up to its promises.

We’ve worked hard to ensure this plan is as ambitious as possible and won’t stop until these promises become reality.

Join us and help us put an end to the environmental crisis.


National Trust:

Patrick Begg, National Trust Outdoors and Natural Resources Director, said:
‘It’s fantastic to finally have a plan for the environment. There has been a long wait, but Michael Gove and the PM deserve credit for publishing it now. The National Trust will do all it can with Defra to deliver this plan and make it a success.
We are particularly pleased to see the plans for a Nature Recovery Network, which should complement our own plans to create 25,000 hectares of new habitats on our own land by 2025.
We also welcome pledges to secure access to local green spaces, encouraging more people, particularly children, to engage with nature. There are already 200m visits to National Trust owned countryside and coast, but we want to work with Defra to bring the benefits of being in nature to many more people.
The big issue for the plan will be whether it will be backed by the institutions and laws to ensure it really delivers across the country. The NHS survives because it’s become an established institution in our country’s fabric. The UK is cutting carbon emissions in large part thanks to the Climate Change Act. Restoring our natural environment will need something similar so that this generation will actually be the first to leave the environment in a better state than it found it.’.



Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Global Conservation Director said:

‘Today’s 25 Year Environment Plan is a welcome acknowledgement that we must make a generation-long commitment to saving nature. We applaud the ambition of the plan; now we need to see the radical action it proposes enshrined in law.

Unfortunately there is no quick fix for the threats faced by nature; we need the challenge to be owned by departments across government. And as our problems are not restricted to one country, it is essential that all four governments in the UK – in Westminster, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – work together.  This will help to create an approach that helps nature recover in all of the UK and its overseas territories. Together we can provide international leadership on the environment, even in challenging times.’.


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  1. Random22 says:

    My reaction. I wouldn't believe a word that a Tory PM said even if they said fire was hot and water was wet. Their only real pledge which can be believed is the long standing one to decrease civil liberties and plunder the country for personal profit.

    Any talk of "green crap" (as the Tories once so memorably put it) is simply that, talk.

  2. John Cantelo says:

    Whilst I share a degree of cynicism about the speech, whether it is a prelude to meaningful change and the real motives behind it, by making the speech May has raised the profile of environmental issues. It challenges other parties to take 'green issues' more seriously (and Labour has been little more than lukewarm). Even if it is a cynical gambit to gain traction with younger voters, it will only deliver if it results in real changes and other parties won't be blind to the fact that such issues have just been pushed up the agenda.

  3. Bill murphy. says:

    A Forerunner to any Plans must be that Victorian so called "Country Sports", Grouse Shooting, Fox hunting. ,Hare coursing etc, have no place in a modern environment. Our Wildlife have a perfect right to live a natural life, and not be shot, Trapped, poisoned, or persecuted in any way just for the FUN of it. If not then all the fine words in this Statement will count for nothing, and mankind, and Wildlife will be no better off.

  4. John Lucas says:

    Have re-read the speech, still can not find any mention of lead. Surely the banning of lead in gun shot is a quick, easy, and meaningful start of any environmental plan.

  5. Keith Dancey says:

    Thank you, Mark, for all this information and for all your hard work:-)

  6. Ben Haworth says:

    Politicians with "visions" are not to be trusted, what of Tony Blaires visions?
    Having said that there is a glimmer of hope now and not before time.

  7. john miles says:

    Wildlife tourism in Scotland just increased by 20% in 7 years to £187 million but no figures for that backward country called England!! The USA have 5 year reviews showing in 2016 86 million folk watched wildlife. Hunting declined by 20%. Too busy killing themselves!

  8. Kevin Rush says:

    The Tories conducted polling after their election debacle to find out the issues which were a problem. Justine Greening has paid for the education failure with her job and now we see the party adopting a green mantle in order to detoxify the brand. Unfortunately, in both cases (and in others) it IS all about image. The Tories either don't understand what is really necessary or don't have any real intention of acting decisively if that is against the interests of the vested interest groups that back them.

  9. Paul Leyland says:

    To convince people that they are serious the Goverment need to do a grand gesture that inconveniences business but benefits wildlife. How about stopping the expansion at Tilbury Power Station.

  10. Roderick Leslie says:

    I see two big themes in this speech: shooting the Labour fox (not that we've seen much action from it) by stealing a lot of things they would/should have been advocating.

    And, crucially important, the very strong link - with some real action - between the need for housing and the environment, especially its value to quality of life. Since the NCC made its proposal for 250,000 hectares of new community forest I've failed to find a single mention in the wide range of conservation NGO magazines, blogs etc I follow. It's extraordinary: everyone says we need scale, everyone says we need to bring people, and especially children, closer to nature but when the opportunity comes along its ignored, probably because it doesn't fit their agenda. Enthusiastically pursued and planned, the potential to restore biodiversity is spectacular: its not just about trees - how about 10,000 has of new reed bed to clean grey water ? What about the re-wetted flood plains, grassland and woodland, to check flooding ? The restored peatlands advocated by this blog and by the NCC ?

    And this is one place where the money is there - with an estimated £17 billion of development around the northern forest area - there should be more than enough for the £500m estimated cost, and rather than an ongoing economic burden the economic gains from the proposal are over £2 billion.

    Sums that add up - not pie in the sky bids for money that isn't there.

    A good laugh, though, when Theresa said 'others argue that taking action to improve our environment harms business and holds back growth' - she'd hit half a dozen of them in a single swing of her handbag from her seat in the Commons.

  11. Stewart Thompson says:

    Some very disappointing responses here as a consequence of their acceptance of the inappropriate time frame proposed.

  12. Peter Alfrey says:

    "A free market economy, operating under the right rules, regulations, and incentives, delivering sustainable economic growth, is the single greatest agent of collective human progress we have ever know".

    What?? When have we ever known that??

    That is exactly what sustainable thinkers want and is exactly what fundamental capitalists resist.

    May's speech is 'just' sinister, deceitful and dangerous words that cloak a true agenda to drive inequality and environmental decline for the benefit of a super global elite, who the Tories serve. They intend to push the majority of humanity into slavery to debt and corporate interests and intend to drive the ecological system into collapse- to engineer an environment of poor health, weakness, despair and dependency that will be more manageable to control, exploit, profit from and elevate themselves to some Super human status where they intend to thrive and lord over an apocalypse of their own making.

    We do need a more advanced social, economic and environmental system with corporations legally bound to deliver ecological and social targets as part of their bottom line delivery and the Tories are the least capable people in the world to deliver that.

  13. filbert cobb says:

    I could be wrong but I don't recall a PM launching a comprehensive environmental strategy before now. Maybe it's because this one cuts across the briefs of so many departments. Maybe it's about sharing in the warm glow of Mr Gove's new halo before it dims and turns to ashes. I sometimes wish I could be less cynical but I guess it's a consequence of seeing what goes on for 94 years and as Time runs out I feel the need to save it so more not less is the outcome.

    Whatever - looking quickly through the welcome words there are many references to "funding" for initiatives and the mooted new Edentate Agency that will savage the Gubmint with its fearsome gums when progress is lacking by 2042 but nothing about restoring the budgets of the existing agencies that are supposed to enforce existing environmental regulations and law which if they were enforced Right Now would improve our environmental lot considerably without a lot of trumpeting or new legislation that merely provides a raft of new offences that the depleted agencies will then not enforce.


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