Britain set to miss 2020 environmental goals
13th November 2019 | Recycling
The UK is on course to miss many of its looming environmental targets despite repeated government promises to do more to tackle climate change in a year that has seen green politics become more prominent. Goals to reduce air and water pollution, improve biodiversity and increase the proportion of recycled waste look set to be missed in 2020, according to a joint analysis of government data by the FT and Unearthed, an arm of environmental group Greenpeace.
Campaigners say progress has been hamstrung by the continuing impact of budget cuts following the 2008 financial crisis on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency, the regulator. “The government is failing to take sufficient action on pretty much every aspect of nature and the environment,” said Sam Chetan-Walsh of Greenpeace.
To improve air quality and public health by January 2020 in line with UN guidelines, Britain must reduce the level of ammonia, a gas that is mostly a byproduct of farming, by 8% compared to 2005 levels. The concentration of tiny particles in the air, known as particulate matter (PM2.5), must fall by 30 per cent. Both can contribute to serious respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
However, ammonia emissions have edged down less than 1 per cent since 2005 and have increased since 2013. PM2.5 levels have fallen 15 per cent since 2005 but have been broadly flat since 2014. Britain is also likely to overshoot its greenhouse emissions targets starting in 2023.
Meanwhile, experts say it will be almost impossible to meet with EU’s target to recycle, reuse or compost half of household waste by the start of 2020. In 2017, the household recycling rate edged up to 45.7 per cent from 45.2 per cent in 2016, and 404.4 per cent in 2010. Plans to improve the state of nature are also behind schedule. The UK is sent to miss 14 out of 19 of its biodiversity targets for 2020, which were agreed under the UK convention on biological diversity, according to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), a government advisory body.
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