UK Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to put oceans firmly on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, also known as the Commonwealth Summit, in April 2018 as she pledged to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the country by 2042.
The UK government has set out a number of targets as part of their 25-year plan to improve the natural environment.
The proposals include urging supermarkets to introduce “plastic-free” aisles, taxes and charges for single-use items and containers, an extension of the 5p plastic carrier bag charge for all retailers in England, government funding for plastics innovation, and a commitment to help developing nations tackle pollution and plastic waste through UK aid.
Plans are also in place to help children engage with environment programmes, including a £10million fund for school visits and an initiative to create school grounds that include areas on learning about the natural world.
Environmental politics has come to the foreground of government discussion in recent months after the environment was identified by Bright Blue, the Conservative think-tank, as a key issue for young voters, who largely failed to back the party in the 2017 general election.
The plan covers many policy areas, including sustainable land management, nature and wildlife recovery, human health and well-being through nature, resource efficiency and the reduction of waste and pollution.
Urgently needed housing, the construction of the HS2 railway, and a major road-building programme by the Department for Transport are all putting huge pressures on the natural environment.
Much of the UK’s landscape has also been affected by intensive farming, animal grazing and development.
Environmentalists have agreed that the government’s plan to restore nature, rather than just safeguard, is radical but there is scepticism about the extent to which the environment department, Defra, will be able to realise it.
Green groups have expressed anger that the proposals have no legal force behind them and campaigners say the plans, which have been criticised as too vague, could be shelved if they become inconvenient.
Greenpeace called the plan a “missed opportunity” and questioned why any mention of a deposit return scheme for bottles was absent from the announcement, whilst Friends of the Earth called for a “clear timetable”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that 25 years was “far too long” a timeframe in which to take action, arguing that the throw-away culture in the UK had to be tackled immediately.
Labour’s Environment spokeswoman, Sue Hayman, said that previous Conservative promises on the environment had been broken and the new “weak” proposals excited little faith about their implementation.
Announcing the strategy, May said: "We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals into rivers was ever the right thing to do.
"I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly.
"In the UK alone, the amount of single-use plastic wasted every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls."
Read More: The government of the UK, a leading Commonwealth member, pledged US$21.3 million to 51 of the world’s poorest countries at the World Trade Organisation’s Ministerial Conference on December 11, 2017