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Campaigners have urged the new Environment Secretary, Steve Barclay, to prioritize quick victories as his predecessor’s complacency has left a legacy.
Mr Barclay became the 10th Environment Secretary since 2010 as he moved into the role from Health Secretary during Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle on Monday.
He takes over the position previously held by Therese Coffey, who stepped down from her role in the government during the reshuffle. Coffey had previously held various ministerial positions, including health and work and pensions minister, and had also served as deputy prime minister under Liz Truss.
Activists are currently urging Mr Barclay to take swift action, as they have expressed dissatisfaction with the Government and Ms Coffey’s recent handling of environmental issues in the UK.
Many people have urged Mr Barclay to address the inadequate performance of water companies and the issue of sewage pollution. They are also requesting more support for regenerative farming and efforts to restore nature, as well as the implementation of waste-reduction schemes that have been promised for a long time.
Paul de Zylva, a nature advocate for Friends of the Earth, stated that Therese Coffey’s tenure as secretary of the environment was plagued by conflicts.
“Her lasting legacy will be the complacency she showed in dealing with the ongoing sewage scandal, which has seen the near-complete deterioration of our precious rivers and seas.
Although she did contribute to the UK’s positive involvement in last year’s UN biodiversity discussions, she is also known for giving unconstructive speeches that created divisions between farmers, business leaders, and environmental groups instead of fostering collaboration among them.
Steve Barclay is taking on a task that has been overlooked for most of his party’s term in power – there is a significant amount of time that needs to be made up for.
“Due to the critical condition of the environment in the UK, he must first prioritize addressing the inadequate performance of water companies that contribute to pollution and the governing body Ofwat.”
He should assist farmers in finding ways to work in cooperation with the natural environment while reducing harmful emissions. He should also allocate enough resources to rebuild trust in the government’s wildlife and environmental oversight agencies.
According to Richard Benwell, the CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, the current government was voted in based on their pledge to implement “the most ambitious environmental program of any nation in the world.”
Unfortunately, we have not seen any progress in our promises, whether it be in reforming farming practices, reducing waste, or preventing pollution.
The newly appointed Environment Secretary has an opportunity to address the widespread public demand for environmental progress and reignite a commitment to sustainability within the government.
“Greater backing for regenerative agriculture, assistance for the restoration of habitats and rivers, and fulfillment of promised waste-reduction plans could potentially transform our economy for the positive.”
“During the initial days of his term, Mr. Barclay should prioritize achieving quick successes, such as implementing a ban on horticultural peat, ratifying the Global Ocean Treaty, creating a 30×30 plan, phasing out lead ammunition, and implementing a strategy for reducing chemical use. These actions would effectively demonstrate his commitment to protecting nature.”
Tanya Steele, the CEO of WWF, expressed her congratulations to Steve Barclay on becoming the new Environment Secretary.
“Two years have passed since the implementation of the Environment Act, but the Government has not taken action to address deforestation in supply chains and the UK’s involvement in the devastation of important regions such as the Amazon.”
This task should be Mr Barclay’s top priority on the first day.
“We strongly encourage him to take swift action and get the UK back on course to fulfill its environmental and climate obligations.”
It is important for him to acknowledge that neglecting action on climate change and preserving nature will have significant consequences that will affect regular households throughout the UK.
We cannot use this new appointment as a reason for further delays.
Rebecca Newsom, who is in charge of politics at Greenpeace UK, stated: “During the previous election, the Conservative party made a pledge to implement the most ambitious environmental plan out of all the countries in the world.”
“The incoming Environment Secretary’s inbox is being flooded with notifications at a rapid pace, comparable to a river downstream from a sewage plant.”
The problems are severe and demand immediate action from leaders: improve water quality, address plastic pollution, promote livable cities, approve the Global Ocean Treaty, and prioritize environmentally friendly farming practices.
“We require that level of achievement. Therefore, it is imperative for Steve Barclay to take prompt action, as the British public is already witnessing the consequences of failure.”
Mr Barclay expressed his enthusiasm for leading the Defra team and supporting British farmers and fishermen.
I am thrilled to be advocating for rural areas and assisting our exceptional food makers.
This administration is dedicated to improving our environment and stopping and reversing the decline of nature. We aim to protect our essential natural resources for the benefit of future generations.
The department’s role is crucial for the country’s economic well-being, particularly in safeguarding our communities from the effects of climate change. I am eager to lead advancements in environmentally-friendly technology and contribute to the prosperity of the UK.