An issue which affects all of us is the importance of making sure we leave our planet in a better condition than we found it. From our own household to governments working together, we can all play our part.
The last decade has seen the UK acting to tackle this issue on a practical level. A timely example is the single-use carrier bag charge which has seen a 95 per cent cut in plastic bag sales in major supermarkets since 2015. The average customer now buys four single-use carrier bags a year from the main supermarkets; this figure was as high as 140 issued to customers the year before the charge came in.
Further protections for our natural environment and oceans have come in the banning of plastic microbeads in personal care and cosmetic products including face scrubs, soaps, toothpaste and shower gels. Previously just one shower could send some 100,000 microbeads down the drain and into the ocean, causing serious harm to marine life.
Ministers are undertaking a consultation on introducing a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers to help ensure that billions more drinks bottles and cans are recycled and reused, and not condemned to landfill or littered in our communities. The consultation is open until 4th June and can be found on the ‘Policy papers and consultations’ page on: www.gov.uk/defra
The Environment Bill will put our natural world at the heart of policy making, ensuring that current and future governments are held accountable for making progress on environmental issues.
A framework for legally-binding environmental targets and a new Office for Environmental Protection will be introduced, as will measures protecting nature, improving biodiversity and revolutionising how we recycle.
I am also supporting amendments to the Bill, put down by the Chair of the House of Commons Environment Committee, seeking to address the issue of deforestation. These amendments aim to bar financial institutions from providing financial services to commercial enterprises that illegally deforest land, as well as ensuring that lands of indigenous communities are protected.
It is right that Britain leads the world in environmental protections, and at no more important time than this country hosting the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November.
My work holding Government to account in this area includes chairing last week’s session of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee where we questioned the President of COP26, Alok Sharma, about his priorities and ambitions for the summit. Among the subjects I raised was the UK’s representations to global partners; this is an issue I will continue to pursue on behalf of Crawley residents ahead of November’s summit and beyond.
Henry Smith MP