You may be surprised to learn that 2017 was the cleanest and greenest year ever in the UK for electricity when we saw the first full day without coal power since the Industrial Revolution. The rise of renewable energy helped to break 13 clean energy records and reflects our commitment to being the UK's greenest ever government.
I very much welcome, therefore, the recent launch of the Government’s landmark 25 Year Environment Plan, setting out how we will improve the environment over a generation by creating richer habitats for wildlife, improving air and water quality and curbing the scourge of plastic in the world’s oceans.
In particular, the Plan pledges to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. We must reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates. To do this we will extend the 5p carrier bag charge to all retailers in England, encourage supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles in which all the food is loose, inject new funding into plastics innovation and encourage industry to take more responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products.
This comes alongside action already taken to ban the manufacture of products containing microbeads, which cause serious harm to marine life, and there will be a public Consultation shortly on how changes to the tax system or charges on single-use plastics can play a role in reducing waste.
It is also important to help our wildlife and diverse habitats thrive and the Plan intends to create 500,000 hectares of new habitat for endangered species, support farmers to replenish depleted soils and turn fields into meadows and other habitats.
Finally, it is vital that we encourage our children to learn more about nature and have greater access to the countryside. So, National Parks will be reviewed to see how they can improve in order to double the number of young people they engage with every year in school visits. A new Nature Friendly Schools programme will also be launched to improve school grounds.
This is a welcome first step to leave our planet in a better state for the next generation.