Environment

How Liz Truss's policies are threatening the planet and what you can do about it

Liz Truss has launched what environmental groups are calling an "attack on nature" with her policies. Here's why - and how you can act

Conservation charities have accused Liz Truss of launching an "attack on nature". Image: 10 Downing Street/Flickr.

So far this year, we’ve seen Britain’s hottest day ever recorded, a third of Pakistan has been submerged by flooding and global climate experts the IPCC have issued a “final warning” for humanity. Now more than ever, scientists and environmentalists have been urging leaders to take action on the climate crisis.

Yet in the space of just a few weeks, Liz Truss’s government has proposed a raft of legislation that will undo nature protections and risk worsening global heating.

The proposals have been so dramatic that usually apolitical groups like the National Trust and the RSPB have stepped in, accusing the government of launching an “attack on nature”. 

From pledging new oil and gas exploration to threatening national parks, there’s scarcely been a day over the past few weeks that environmentalists haven’t been shocked by the headlines.

If you’re struggling to keep track, here’s your run-down of the new legislation which could threaten the planet – and what you can do to help stop it. 

Fracking 

Fracking is a process used to extract shale gas from the ground by drilling underground and using a high-pressure mix of chemicals, sand and water to release the gas. 

Shale gas is a fossil fuel, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when burnt. Yet aside from the climate impacts, fracking can also cause earth tremors near sites.

Evidence of these tremors led to fracking being effectively banned in England in 2019. 

Despite this, Liz Truss’s government has announced that it will resume fracking in order to increase the UK’s energy security and combat the cost of living crisis.

Fracking is deeply unpopular among the public and even former energy minister and now-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng admitted in a Daily Mail article that it won’t reduce energy bills in the short term.

He wrote: “The UK has no gas supply issues. And even if we lifted the fracking moratorium tomorrow, it would take up to a decade to extract sufficient volumes – and it would come at a high cost for communities and our precious countryside.”

Investment zones

As part of a plan to increase house building and commercial development, the government has announced plans to designate parts of the UK as “investment zones” where usual planning laws won’t apply.

Areas usually exempt from development, including national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, sites of special scientific interest and green belt land, will all be open for designation as “investment zones”.

Government guidance includes no mention of environmental constraints on building in protected habitats under the habitat regulations, which provide safety to some of the most vulnerable wildlife in England.

These regulations also aim to prevent water pollution and over-abstraction of water from rivers.

Environmental groups have said the investment zones will lead to some of the most precious land and wildlife in the UK being destroyed, and will make reversing nature decline impossible.

Scrapping key environmental legislation

If that weren’t enough, a new bill has been tabled which could see key environmental protection laws scrapped. 

The “Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform)” bill could revoke up to 570 key pieces of environmental legislation which were rolled over following Brexit. 

The laws cover everything from reducing sewage pollution to water quality, habitat protections, clean air and the use of pesticides. 

Conservation groups and environmental campaigners reacted with fury at news that these laws could be revoked, accusing the government of an “attack on nature”.

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Oil and gas licensing 

The government’s own climate advisers, the IPCC and countless other scientists have warned that further fossil fuel exploration is incompatible with goals to keep planetary warming within 1.5C

Despite this, the government has opened a new round of oil and gas licensing, with as many as 100 licences set to be awarded. 

The government says that the move will help boost domestic energy supply and keep prices low, but both the oil industry and experts say the reserves won’t be large enough to have an impact on cost for the consumer. 

Scrapping farming schemes 

One of the promised benefits of Brexit was a new model for subsidising farming which would reward farmers for protecting nature.

The government came up with a set of environmental land management schemes (ELMS) designed to give farmers financial rewards for practices like tree-planting and re-wetting bogs.

However, the government is now reviewing ELMS and reports suggest that the scheme could be scrapped. The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs has since insisted that the scheme won’t be scrapped, but its future remains uncertain.

Blocking an energy campaign

Reports suggest that Britain could be facing blackouts this winter if energy supplies are further disrupted. 

Reducing energy use wouldn’t only mitigate the risk of blackouts – it would save consumers money while cutting carbon emissions.

Despite this, Truss has reportedly vetoed a public information campaign which would offer the public advice on cutting energy use this winter. 

What can I do to support climate policies? 

All of this makes for some pretty grim reading – but the good news is, thousands of people are now fighting back against these policy decisions. 

Friends of the Earth has launched a petition against the potential scrapping of environmental laws and introduction of investment zones which you can sign here.

Meanwhile, the RSPB has set up an easy-to-use form for contacting your MP and asking them to prevent the government’s “attack on nature”. They offer a pre-written letter, or you have the option to write your own.

The Wildlife Trusts also has a step-by-step guide on actions you can take.

Campaign group Just Stop Oil, meanwhile, is meeting at Downing Street at 11am every day to demand no more oil exploration.

Make sure to let friends and family know about what’s going on and encourage them to sign petitions, take part in action or write to their MP. This is especially important for anyone who doesn’t regularly read the news.

Large environmental charities such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and The Wildlife Trusts are likely to have upcoming actions that you can take, and you can stay up to date with this by signing up to email alerts and newsletters on their respective websites.

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