Alongside the steps urgently needed to reverse climate change, I have been calling for action to improve the quality of our environment in the UK. Years of neglect has damaged the UK’s natural habitats and waters. Since the 1970, estimates suggest 41% of all UK species have declined. As a member of the Environment Audit Committee which scrutinises the environmental impacts of Government policy and we have seen the Government consistently to protect our environment.
The climate crisis is directly contributing to the devastating loss of global biodiversity. Scientists agree that we are now facing the greatest loss of life on earth since the dinosaurs and global government must act to stem this. This means future generations will be unable to see many species, and also poses significant risks to our own food security. I regularly table questions to the Government on this issue. I also work closely with the RSPB and Bat Conservation Trust as the Parliamentary Species Champion for the Common Pipistrelle Bat, working to raise awareness and to protect native habitats and species.
High levels of pollution haves shamefully left just 14% of English rivers meeting good ecological standards. I believe insufficient action has been taken to tighten regulation to stop water companies using discharges as a day-to-day measure when they were introduced for only the most extreme circumstances.
Water should be run in the interests of the environment and consumers, not shareholders. In recent years, customers have faced rising bills while those directing water companies have received multimillion-pound packages, bonuses and dividends. The cost of cleaning up our rivers must come from these profits.
I have supported Private Member’s Bills and amendments aiming to clean up our rivers. I would like to see increased fines for water companies that routinely discharge raw sewage and annual parliamentary scrutiny of progress. I also believe we need a specific definition of a progressive reduction and a timetable to achieve it.
Plastic waste has long polluted our waterways, caused blockages in sewage systems and filled landfill sites for many years, but we are increasingly seeing evidence of longer term effects. Microplastics (tiny particles shed from plastic waste) are now being recorded at high levels in our seas and entering the food chain through fish and meat. It is clear that we need much stronger actions to eliminate avoidable plastic waste and single-use plastics.
I support an all-in deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers of all sizes and materials. They achieve the best recycling return and are the clearest system for the public to use. Without buy-in from the public, I believe we are unlikely to achieve the change and progress our planet desperately needs. I further believe an all-in scheme is the most likely to offer opportunities for scaling up to a refill system in future.
It is also vital that the UK ends the practice of exporting our waste to be incinerated overseas. We need to see these exports banned, more recycling taking place at home and faster action on the climate crisis.