The Government’s Environment Plan: too little, too late, say local Greens

14 January 2018

Chichester and Bognor Green Party has responded with dismay to the Government’s 25 year Environmental Plan, unveiled last week.
Along with other environmental organisations, the Green Party believes the Plan is worthless until it includes concrete legislation to ensure that the aims are carried through.
‘This government, and many before it, have proved that all their fine words are swept away the minute there is a choice between the environment and profit,’ said the group’s spokesperson, Isabel Thurston.
She added, ‘Equally, the target dates of 2040 are far too long – for many of our ecosystems, especially our oceans, too much damage has already been done. People are becoming aware of how much damage is being done, for example, by plastics, and to allow 25 years for things to be done differently is irresponsible. There are already alternatives to plastic that can be used for packaging.”
For examples of double standards, we only have to look at the Government’s stated desire to allow fracking wherever possible; in the wake of their overturning fracking applications in Lancashire, West Sussex County Council has decided to give the go-ahead for more flow testing at West Sussex oil sites. This goes directly against the need to use less fossil fuels as we move towards a lower carbon economy in accordance with our global commitment.
The Environment Plan states a commitment to fighting climate change, but does not mention limiting air travel or vehicle traffic, responsible for a huge proportion of ‘global warming’ gas emissions. On the contrary, plans for a new airport and many damaging new roads, including locally at Chichester and Arundel, are planned.
Chichester’s Green City Councillor, Sarah Sharp, who is running an ongoing air pollution survey in the city centre, said ‘I was encouraged by the interest in our Air Quality Stand held yesterday at Draper's Yard. We found support for all of the solutions that are out there that we can and must take action on.  We have a huge amount of un-joined up thinking going on locally. Our hedgerows are being ripped out all over the countryside for new developments and our best loved cycle path, Centurion Way, is under threat. A local nurse who supported our stand yesterday told me of her concern that our hospitals are cancelling elective surgery due to the unprecedented number of chest conditions which are linked to poor air quality. People want cleaner buses and safe cycle lanes and are beginning to see the link between our unhealthy reliance on the private car and how investing so much in road building is damaging our own well-being and our countryside. Research from Bath* has shown that we are subsiding driving by £5bn every year. A combination of the Community Congestion Charge and Workplace parking levies enable councils to invest in public transport creating significant incentives for behavioural change, tackling congestion and air pollution within towns and cities. The principle “It should be cheaper to catch a bus than drive and park” is absolutely key."
Now that the government has spoken, will our local councils be publishing their own proposals for the environment?