Ocean News – March 2022

Welcome to the March edition of Ocean News. Bringing you all the updates on all things ocean policy.

2022 is set to be a big year for Ocean Conservation. We have already seen 175 countries come together to agree a Global Plastics Resolution.  Domestically the government have consulted on extending single use bans, the Environment Audit Committee have launched their Water Quality Inquiry Report and the Environment Act target setting consultation is well underway. Over the next few months we will see even more action with the consultation on the Governments Storm Overflow Action Plan set to be launched soon. 

Plastic Pollution

A Global Plastics Treaty 

At the start of the month an historic resolution was agreed by 175 countries to end plastic pollution. This is the most important international environment pact since the Paris climate agreement in 2015. 

The resolution sets out the broad terms for a global treaty on plastic pollution and was agreed at the United Nations Environment Assembly.

Critically, they agreed the treaty should address the full lifecycle of plastics – this means the production and design of plastics are covered, not just waste management. This offers the potential to cap the production of plastic. The agreement also covers plastic pollution in all environments, not just marine plastics. The treaty will also be legally binding rather than voluntary, which is vital to ensure action is taken and that polluters are held to account.

Plastic Bans 

The UK government has just finished consulting on plans to ban a new list of the most commonly littered single use plastic items, including cutlery and food containers. 

These proposals have been welcomed by the Environment Sector, however environmental organisations have called for these plans to sit within broader policies to reduce resource consumption and promote reuse within a circular economy.  

Water Quality 

Bathing River Designations

Surfers Against Sewage have launched a petition calling on governments to designate 200 inland bathing rivers by 2030. Official designation has already helped to clean up coastal water quality,  and can do the same for our rivers. Through monitoring rivers for harmful bacteria and virus polluters will be made to take action.

We have pulled together a briefing note with more information about the role inland waters can play in improving river and coastal water quality.

Environment Audit Committee Report

The EAC launched the findings of their inquiry into Water Quality in Rivers in January. The committee, which includes many APPG members, found a ‘chemical cocktail’ of sewage, slurry and plastic polluting English rivers, putting public health and nature at risk. It includes many strong recommendations such as:

  • An urgent review of water companies’ self-monitoring.
  • Ministers and the Environment Agency should set challenging improvement targets and timetables for this progressive reduction
  • Each Water Company should designate at least one river as a bathing water by 2025.

Government Storm Overflow Plan 

As per the Environment Act, officials are currently working away to draft the governments Storm Overflow Plan which must be laid before parliament by September. We expect parliamentarians and the wider public to be consulted on the draft plan in April. Keep an eye on @oceanappg for the latest updates.

To be effective we will be looking for the plan to include bold and stretching targets to reduce discharges.

Environment Act

Target Setting Consultation 

New long-term environmental targets have been announced by the government. The proposed targets are a key part of the governments Environment Act and will help drive action by this and future governments to protect and enhance the environment.

The consultation includes targets to improve Marine Protected Areas, reduce residual waste and nutrient pollution of rivers. Whilst the targets have been welcomed broadly by the environment sector, there are concerns that proposed targets do not go far enough to improve overall ocean health, reduce the overconsumption of materials, such as plastics, nor do they aim to reduce untreated sewage discharges.

Three Actions to Take   

  • 1. Support designation of your local river  – Reach out to your local swimming, canoeing or river action group to support applications for river bathing status.
  • 2. Read the EAC Rivers report recommendations – This is the most thorough report on the issue of sewage pollution and includes well researched and thought out recommendations.
  • 3. Follow us on twitter – For the latest news and commentary all things ocean conservation follow us @OceanAPPG