How to campaign for better environmental targets

Find out how you can make sure the government sets out ambitious plans for immediate, tangible changes on the all big threats to nature.

13 May 2022

The Environment Act

In November 2021 the government passed a new law which aims to protect and restore nature across the UK – the Environment Act.

Together, we’ve been campaigning for this law since 2017. You might remember supporting the mass lobby of Westminster parliament in 2018, when 14,000 of us met MPs to ask them for a strong law. Or meeting with your MP over the last couple of years to ask them to support changes to make the law better.

Thanks to all of us, this Environment Act committed the government to lay out a vision for a healthy, flourishing environment, and a set of legally binding targets to get us there.

In March 2022, the government published this grand plan. 

What’s the problem?

Nature in the UK is in crisis. Rivers are swamped with sewage and habitats are choked with plastic. Our dirty air is harming children’s lungs and our native species are threatened. 

So we needed these targets to drive immediate, tangible changes on the all big threats to nature, and lock in improvements right across the board. But they don’t. 
This plan contains a total of 13 different targets on things from water pollution to extinction risk. But the government refused to set short-term targets in law, and most of these ones are set for 15 or 20 years into the future – and in one case for 2050.  That’s too late. 

Even these long term targets aren’t going to be ambitious enough to fix the threats facing nature in the UK, let alone improve it. They avoid lots of the challenging problems that people really care about, like how to better protect protected sites on land, better measure species populations and tackle microplastics. And many don’t offer enough detail for us to know what difference they’ll make to the environment.

The whole plan could also be undermined by woeful inaction on plastic pollution, because MPs didn’t approve changes we campaigned for in the Environment Act, which would have guaranteed government had to set an overall plastic reduction target.

This grand plan to guarantee the UKs nature a brighter future isn’t just a damp squib. If it goes ahead, it will lock in decades of allowing government to get away with ignoring the biggest, most difficult to solve threats to nature, and of seeing our environment continue to decline.

What can you do?

Friends of the Earth has a long history of campaigning for strong laws and making sure that they deliver for the environment. So we have a three-stage plan to make sure the Environment Act isn’t a wasted opportunity.

We know from the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve joined us in calling for action on plastic pollution and extinction in the UK that we’re not alone in feeling frustrated that too little is being done – and it may soon be too late. And we know that while the government plods forward, tackling plastic pollution with single-item bans, any gains for nature could be lost under a blanket of waste.

Respond to the government consultation

Government decided to consult on these targets in March. And we reckoned that a lot of people would like to tell the government what they think in their own words. So we’re pleased to let you know you have  more time to do just that – after a long delay, the government have finally published the full details behind their proposals and extended the consultation by six weeks. 

But consultations can be long and technical, which can put people off – and when few people respond to a consultation, the government can ignore it. So Friends of the Earth has put together a simple tool to help individuals and groups submit a response to the bits of the consultation you care most about in just a few minutes.

Please take a look and think about if you want to respond as a group, or encourage people in your community to pass on their views. The consultation deadline has now been extended to June 27. 

Sign the open letter

Our massive open letter has now attracted nearly 43,000 people to add their names. It tells the Secretary of State just how much communities care that these targets really deliver a better environment, not one still choked by problems like plastic.

Thanks to everyone who has signed and shared so far  – and there is still time to sign on!  We’ll post this letter in to the Secretary of State on the day the consultation closes. The government might think that they can get away with some nice, woolly promises, but we’ll help to show that communities won’t stand for that.

Support World Refill Day

If you're still looking for ways to raise awareness of the ongoing threat of plastic pollution get World Refill Day in your diary.

Taking place on June 16, World Refill Day is a chance to tell your community about the power of refilling and reusing, and to promote practical ways people can cut plastic pollution in your local area. Creating more opportunities for refill and re-use will be key to the success of a plastics reduction target that you've supported us in calling for over the past years. Resources and updates are available on the World Refill Day website.

And one more thing… If you signed up to  the Big Plastics Count,  we’d love to hear how it went. We’ll share the findings when they are released.

Campaigning guides