The UK has “no intention of weakening the environmental protections” following Brexit, Michael Gove said in his first major speech in the role at the WWF’s Living Planet Centre.
He went on to add that he wanted the post-Brexit UK to be: “a setter of gold standards in protecting and growing our natural capital.”
During a wide-ranging speech Gove offered an ambitious outline of how the Government would tackle the restoration of nature and the environment.
Speaking at WWF UK on Friday morning, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:
“Eight million tonnes of plastic are discarded into the world’s oceans each year, putting marine wildlife under serious threat.
In October 2015, the government introduced the 5p carrier bag charge. Figures released today show that policy’s enormous success – nine billion fewer carrier bags distributed since the charge was introduced, a fall of 83 per cent. More than £95million raised from the charge has been donated to environmental, educational and other good causes.
Last year the government launched a consultation on banning microbeads in personal care products, which have such a devastating effect on marine life. We are responding to that consultation today and we will introduce legislation to implement that ban later this year.
But there is more we can do to protect our oceans, so we will explore new methods of reducing the amount of plastic – in particular plastic bottles – entering our seas, improve incentives for reducing waste and litter, and review the penalties available to deal with polluters – all part of a renewed strategy on waste and resources that looks ahead to opportunities outside the EU.”
On climate change, Gove stated his deep regret at President Trump’s stance on the Paris Agreement: “It’s our planet too and America needs to know we can only resolve this problem together.”
There were also some encouraging words on publishing the 25 year plan for the environment later this year, and a commitment to consult experts on its scope, and to ensure it forms a basis for future laws on agriculture and fisheries.
“we should not seek simply to halt or slow the deterioration of our environment,” he said. “We must raise our ambitions so we seek to restore nature and reverse decline.”
WWF Chief Executive, Tanya Steele, added: “His vision of making the UK a global leader on environmental policy is essential if we are to stand any chance of meeting his goal to ‘hand over our planet in a better condition than we inherited it.’”
WWF said that it looks forward to working with the Environment Secretary in tackling the ever pressing environmental issues we are faced with, and to make post-Brexit Britain a leader on the environment.
However, the organisation said that he, and the Government now need to back up his ambitious words with clear plans and action.
During his speech entitled ‘Delivering a Green Brexit’ Gove also noted New figures which have revealed more than 9 billion fewer plastic bags were used since the government introduced a 5p charge, an 83% reduction.
He also confirmed legislation will be introduced this year to ban the sale and manufacture of microbeads – tiny pieces of plastic that are easily swallowed by marine life – in cosmetics and personal care products such as toothpastes and shower gels.
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