16 January 2018
Theresa May and Michael Gove have outlined the Government’s new 25 Year Environment Plan that aims to make Britain “a cleaner, greener country for us all”. The plan pledges to end plastic waste, create new habitats for endangered species, deliver a “Green Brexit”, create nature-friendly schools and aims to make Britain a world leader in tackling environmental destruction.
As part of UK Youth Voice, a national group of young people that sits at the heart of the youth charity UK Youth, we are pleased to see the environmental plan showcases the importance of the youth vote to major political parties in the modern political climate.
The country’s younger population are well aware of the impact of climate change, fracking, plastics and other environmental issues on their future. Young people understand the need to address these issues and there are countless numbers of young activists campaigning for legislation to support environmental protection. They were crucial in amplifying the social media campaign to ban microbeads from cosmetics which resulted in new legislation being introduced to tackle waste entering the ocean, and were overwhelmingly against the idea of reintroducing fox hunting, adding to the public pressure that resulted in Theresa May announcing that there would be no vote on the issue during this Parliament, to name just a few. Despite this, only one in ten young people spend time in the countryside or in large urban green spaces. One of our own Voice members experienced the benefits of emotional wellbeing, teambuilding and outdoor education when participating in a Staffordshire Wildlife Trust youth social action project in their local woodland.
As members of UK Youth Voice, we developed a Youth Manifesto which highlighted the major issues of discontent among the youth across the UK. We presented our manifesto to 10 Downing Street and Cabinet Ministers, including Michael Gove at the Conservative Party Conference. We called for policy to “enable future generations to live in a clean, safe and sustainable environment”. Our manifesto calls for the creation of an Environmental Protection Act, following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.
The 25 Year Environmental Plan is a major step in the right direction for environmental policy and it’s worth noting that this is the first environmental pledge by a Prime Minister in 15 years. It emphasises that business and environmental protection policy can work together to ensure a strong economy and stable environment is present in the UK. We hope it’s a significant marker for environmental protection and policy that the Government sticks to until 2043 – rather than it merely being full of empty incentives to galvanise the youth vote.
Only time will tell but we mustn’t stop campaigning until these promises become reality – after all, everyone depends on nature. It underpins our economy and our wellbeing, from the food we eat to the air we breathe. We must all take action to protect the future of our planet, for our generation and generations to come.