David Attenborough is something of a hero of mine, and I have written about him several times in this column. Now in his 90s, he continues to be a tireless and passionate campaigner for animal welfare and the environment. In fact, last month he presented the eye-opening documentary Extinction: The Facts, and just yesterday he teamed up with Prince William to launch Earthshot –the ‘Nobel Prize for environmentalism.’
Like many people across the globe, David Attenborough has inspired me to be more conscious about my own impact on the environment and to make changes to reduce that impact, such as switching to a hybrid car and taking the Sky Ocean Rescue Pass On Plastic pledge. Although these might seem like small changes, if we all work together, these small changes can make a real difference.
I’m proud of the work the Government has done to tackle many of the issues at the heart of Earthshot – working to protect our oceans and tackle plastic pollution by banning products containing plastic microbeads; introducing a charge for plastic bags, which has reduced the number of plastic bags in the UK by 90); and in the last week the Government introduced a ban on the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds.
To protect wildlife and nature, the Government has introduced a ban on the sale of ivory and is also consulting on its manifesto pledge to ban the import of hunting trophies. Moreover, plans were recently announced to clamp down on illegal deforestation and to protect rainforests by prohibiting larger UK businesses from using products grown on land that was deforested illegally.
At the beginning of the year, the Environment Bill was put before Parliament – which will ensure that the environment continues to be at the centre of future policy making. The Bill will introduce legally binding targets for this and all future governments to significantly improve air quality, nature, water, resource and waste efficiency, and to establish a new independent Office for Environmental Protection to hold the government to account on environmental issues.
On Tuesday, I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister pledge a Green Industrial Revolution at the heart of our COVID recovery. In his speech at the Virtual Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister pledged £160m to upgrade ports and infrastructure to increase our offshore wind capacity.
The UK already has the largest offshore wind capacity in the world, and the Government has committed to develop this to ensure that offshore wind will produce more than enough electricity to power every home in the country by 2030. Not only will this be hugely beneficial to the environment, but it will also see around 2,000 construction jobs rapidly created and will enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030. Smaller suppliers will be well-placed to secure further investment from energy companies around the world and increase their competitive standing on the global stage as the UK becomes a world leader in this field.
This commitment to clean energy is just the first stage of the Government’s 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. The plan is expected to have ambitious targets, will be backed by investment in innovation and infrastructure, and will support the Government’s manifesto commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050.