What The US Should Learn From The UK On Sustainability

The Lempert Report
March 29, 2018

The United Kingdom has announced and developed a plan to direct national development within an environmental framework over the coming 25 years.

The plan is presented as part of a “Green Brexit,” to reforme agriculture, fisheries management, and environmental protections.  And while the plan is new, the UK has made some significant progress. For instance, greenhouse gas emissions have been cut 42% since 1990, and household recycling has almost quadrupled since 2000.

There are ten goals, most of which will have either a direct or ancillary effect on the country’s food system.

By adopting the plan, they hope to achieve:

  • Clean air.
  • Clean and plentiful water.
  • Thriving plants and wildlife.
  • A reduced risk of harm from environmental hazards such as flooding and drought.
  • Using resources from nature more sustainably and efficiently.
  • Enhanced beauty, heritage, and engagement with the natural environment.

In addition, they will manage pressures on the environment by:

  • Mitigating and adapting to climate change.
  • Minimizing waste.
  • Managing exposure to chemicals.
  • Enhancing biosecurity.

The UK government seeks to improve land management and delivering a new environmental land management system that will rely on the principle of “the polluter pays” to incentivize sustainable agricultural practices. In April 2018, new regulations on agricultural water pollution will go into effect. Farmers will be required to identify and manage risks to water and reduce ammonia emissions, which cause acid rain and reduce soil fertility in the long run. 

The plan includes several goals related to the reduction or elimination of waste. It aims to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of food and drinks consumed in the UK as well as per capita food waste by 20% by 2025. It has also pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, one-fifth of which comes from food and drink packaging. 

report by the FAO and the Water, Land and Ecosystems program led by the International Water Management Institute shows that 38% of bodies of water in the EU are threatened by agricultural pollution.; and one-third of the earth’s agricultural land is moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, salinization, compaction, acidification, and chemical pollution of soils. 

Green Plans,” in collaboration with the Resource Renewal Institute, include the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Singapore, and New Zealand. Other comprehensive environmental plans have been adopted by KenyaPakistanItaly, and Bulgaria. And where is the US?