How we can protect the environment

How the UK can move towards renewables and the case for protecting the environment

There is currently more microplastic in the sea than stars in our galaxy, more rapid extinction rates than pre-human background and more climate change-related deaths. Yet, many leaders are still not taking the problem seriously. The UK has long failed to prioritise the environment, and was even once labelled the ‘Dirty Man of Europe’. With Brexit, most observers feared that the country would fall into its old ways without threats of legal action from the European Commission and European Court of Justice. However, with the first anniversary of the official departure from the European Union approaching, it is time for the UK to show that it can be bold in its environmental policy-making.

The new Environmental Bill currently being examined sets out a framework for ministers to impose new green targets to replace previous EU directives. Nonetheless, the UK government has to do more than draft long-term plans. It is typical for politicians to lay out future objectives yet implement no short-term targets, focusing on topics that will get them re-elected. This vicious circle will get us nowhere. Therefore, the government should not only set more short-term goals but also harness the power of free markets to make it advantageous for businesses to be environmentally friendly to be environmentally friendly and thus break the immobilism cycle.

If we stay put, the situation will only worsen, even though we have no buffer space. If everyone lived like in the UK, 2.6Earths would be required, and all of Earth’s yearly capacities would have been consumed by May 19 2021, this year – despite the pandemic slowdown.

As a result, nuclear power should be phased out in favour of renewable energies. In order to do so, the latter should be subsidised, given tax reductions to be made more affordable and further researched. Moreover, the UK should keep cooperating with the EU and other International Organisations to facilitate the transition to new energy sources, learn from each other and work cooperatively. Pollution does not have borders.

Additionally, public institutions should support consumers in the reduction of their green attitude-behaviour gap. Indeed, although many recognise the cruciality of the issue, ranking it in the top three for Britain, few manage to apply it to their own lives. Therefore, policies should be put in place to reward sustainable behaviour and underline the negative externalities of pollution.

In my opinion, the government will also have to consider if it could aid this change through communications, similarly to what it did for public health matters. Indeed, public powers might be able to encourage the normalisation of advanced green behaviours in their own messaging as well as inviting the entertainment industry to do the same. This would, in turn, help reshape the country’s culture.

I feel that our duty as young adults is to bring this environmental immobilism issue to the foreground of (inter)national consciousness and use our education to initiate daring sustainable solutions. This is exactly what I aim to do through my new role as Centre Think Tank’s Environment spokesperson.

By 2030, the worst effects of climate change will likely be irreversible. Therefore, the time to act is now. So that one day our children can discover blue whales, our parents can spend their retirements without constant flooding, and we can say that we reversed the close-to-be irreversible.

About the author

Ariane Far

Ariane is a policy advisor at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She was previously the Environment Spokesperson for Centre. As part of Centre, Ariane wrote a paper on lessons from Denmark on the environment. She also published a monthly article for Centre on the environment. She also has experience as a freelance writer for the Oxford Business Review and as a Communications Intern at the UN Environment Programme.