Worcester’s Member of Parliament Robin Walker welcomes a number of initiatives undertaken by successive Conservative Governments to help protect the environment and animal welfare, both nationally and internationally.

The UK remains committed to maintaining the highest environmental standards after we leave the EU, and will continue to uphold international obligations through multilateral environmental agreements. The Government has taken a wide range of steps to help protect wildlife, preserve green spaces and promote a more sustainable future.

In animal welfare news, the Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove last year confirmed the UK’s commitment to protecting elephants by banning the sale of ivory. Robin welcomed this move, and further supported the decision to extend the ban to items of all ages regardless of date of production.

Global demand for ivory has seen almost 150,000 elephants lost to poaching in under a decade, leaving numbers down by almost a third. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail, putting UK rules on ivory sales amongst the toughest in the world thus reinforcing the UK’s position as a world leader on environmental issues.

Furthermore, the Government is cracking down on illegal third-party puppy and kitten smuggling. Currently, the UK has the most rigorous pet border checking regimes in the world and plans to crack down further with a complete ban on third-party puppy and kitten sales. This will mean the people who have a complete disregard for pet welfare will no longer be able to profit from this miserable trade. Leaving the EU will give the UK more opportunities to bring in further controls and regulations, and allow this country to continue to build on its reputation as a global force for the protection of animals and wildlife.

The UK will also be one of the first countries to take coal out of the energy mix completely, with the announcement that all coal-fired power stations where carbon emissions are not being captured and stored will be closed by 2025. Renewable energy capacity has quadrupled since 2010, and the Government has sent a clear signal to investors and businesses about the shift to a low-carbon economy presenting a real opportunity for businesses across the country, as well as in Worcester, to take full advantage of the technology of the future.

Robin also supported the bans on single use plastic straws and is pleased with the action the Government is taking to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste under the 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, with action at each stage of the product lifecycle; production, consumption and end of life.

Worcester’s MP has praised moves undertaken by the Parliamentary estate to reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste; in June last year re-usable coffee cups were introduced and plastic water bottles haven been entirely removed eliminating 125,000 plastic bottles of waste annually.

Locally in Worcester, greenbelt land has been protected notably the 41,650 hectares within Worcestershire which checks urban sprawl, preserves the character of historic towns, and safeguards our countryside from encroachment. The revised National Planning Policy Framework will further enhance the existing strong protections in the greenbelt.

Robin’s late father was the first Secretary of State for the Environment, and within his capacity in that role he helped to lay the groundwork for the promotion of the green belt and was a dedicated campaigner and legislator for cleaner waterways; the effects of said legislation have had a lasting impact on the nation’s rivers and canals; encouraging and supporting the flourishing of marine life.

The local Environmental Agency and Clean Rivers Trusts have also taken steps to clean up the River Severn, formerly one of Europe’s most important rivers for transporting coal, and have improved the river’s ecological health. Robin has been looking forward to seeing the progress on the Unlocking the Severn project, which is the largest river restoration project in Europe and is due to be visiting the Canal and River Trust later this week.

The Unlocking the Severn project aims to reopen 250km of river habitat for fish and secure the UK’s breeding population of twaite shad, as well as bringing major business and tourism benefits through reconnecting millions of people with the lost natural, cultural and industrial heritage of the River Severn.

Robin has pledged his support in Parliament for the Great British Spring Clean, run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy. The campaign which will run across the country from March 22nd to April 23rd, will see up to half a million people taking action to clean up streets, parks, waterways and beaches.

Since Robin was elected, 150,000 acres of priority habitats have been created and over 11 million trees have been planted, with a pledge to plant 11 million more. As Worcester’s MP, Robin accepted a small number of trees and has awarded them to St Richard’s Hospice, St Paul’s Hostel, Acorns Children’s Hospice and the Breast Unit to recognise and celebrate the valuable contribution they have all made to the local community. By planting the saplings, these charities have become a part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, a global network of forest conservation initiatives to mark Her Majesty’s lifetime of service to the Commonwealth.

Commenting on these vital environmental protections, Robin, who was previously Parliamentary Private Secretary in DEFRA said:

“I strongly believe that being outside of the EU will give us an opportunity to have stronger environmental protections. A number of initiatives from the Government will help us to achieve this. As negotiations with the EU continue, it is imperative that we take this opportunity to protect our natural wildlife and tailor policies which are designed to benefit British agriculture, wildlife and the countryside.”

“It is great to see such positive action both locally and nationally to protect our environment and I am glad that the UK will be the first to take global action on the creation of The Blue Belt programme to protect our oceans.”

“I know that many of my constituents in Worcester are concerned about issues surrounding recycling and waste, specifically single-use plastics. The detrimental effects single use plastics have on marine life has been well documented, and we have seen great results since the introduction of the plastic bag charge with 13 billion fewer bags since 2015 show that seemingly small initiatives can make an enormous difference in changing our habits.”

“As a Minister in the Department for Exiting for Exiting the EU, I can reassure you that the EU (Withdrawal) Act converts all EU environment law into UK law when we leave the UK, but we should not limit our ambitions to maintaining environmental standards but keep challenging ourselves to do better for our environment. A global Britain can also be a green Britain and I am proud that this Government will be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than which we inherited.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

For more information on the plastic ban, please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-government-rallies-commonwealth-to-unite-on-marine-waste

For more information on the ivory ban, please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/world-leading-uk-ivory-bill-becomes-law–2

For more information on Unlocking the Severn, please see: http://severnriverstrust.com/projects/unlocking-the-severn/