In a huge push for sustainability, the UK Government has announced pledged nearly £70 million of funding for environmental causes.
£8 million will to go towards combatting climate change and natural disasters resulting from it. A further £61.4 million will go towards tackling increasing plastic pollution of the oceans – an issue highlighted by David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II’ last year.
Mrs May also announced a ban on the sale of plastic cotton buds and drinking straws.
At the meeting with the Commonwealth Heads of Government last week, Mrs May said that Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Kenya, Fiji and Ghana had joined the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA), led by the UK and Vanuatu. The CCOA is a pact between Commonwealth members geared towards tackling plastic pollution by preventing further waste and enacting clean ups.
May led a rallying cry for other nations to join the alliance and take action against plastic pollution, declaring “we are clogging up one of the Earth’s greatest natural resources with harmful plastic and – for the sake of this and future generations – we must take action now”.
£16.4 million of the new funding announced will go directly towards supporting the CCOA. £20 million will go towards tackling the issue of plastic waste from manufacturing in developing countries. A further £25 million will be used in research investigating the issues caused by plastic pollution in the oceans, and the development of technologies and policies to combat these issues.
In addition to this, the Department for International Development has promised to match any public charitable donations made to charities set up to combat plastic waste, up to a £5 million total.
The Government’s £8 million pledge towards climate change will go towards three different causes. £3.5 million will be given each to the UK Space Agency International Partnerships Programme in Kenya, where it will be used to help plan ahead and effectively respond to potential natural disasters arising from climate change. , The same amount will go towards develop technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Commonwealth nations. A further £1.2 million will also be made available to help cut greenhouse emissions in Pacific nations specifically.
The ban announced on plastics is also expected to have a significant impact on the fight against marine plastic pollution. Currently the world is dumping 12 million tonnes of plastic into the oceans annually – with research conducted by Eunomia estimating that the UK fast food industry alone throws away 8.5 billion plastic straws every year, accounting for 3,500 tonnes of plastic waste.
Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary said that “single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now. We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on straws, stirrers and cotton buds to help protect our marine life.
Despite the success of the 5p plastic bag charge, Ministers believe that an outright ban on such items would be more effective in cutting unnecessary plastic pollution than by levying a tax on them. However, the Treasury is still planning to implement a tax on single use plastic items like bottles, cups and packaging. This is expected to come into force in 2020, along with a deposit scheme which will allow consumers to recoup the additional cost on such items by recycling them.
Initially the new plastic ban will only apply to England, however, Scotland have already announced their intention to ban cotton buds.