2017 – We are living in interesting times, environmentally speaking. Change is in the air, things are in flux, leading to who knows where?
Given that change is happening in so many areas, it’s worth reflecting on some key questions today to help us prepare for tomorrow:
-- Geopolitically, who can predict the long-term impact on the environment of the stance being taken by the new US administration? Or the UK’s position after its departure from the EU?
-- Will we see new trade deals struck that stimulate home-based industrial growth, and if they do happen, how will these deals take on board a generation of environmental protection improvements to air, water and land quality?
-- How will our agricultural sector be supported or adapt as we move out of the Common Agricultural Policy when it comes to dealing with farm biodiversity or water protection?
-- How will new technologies and new market behaviours deliver changes to our energy markets that give us a more resilient, customer-focussed, affordable, less polluting energy generation and consumption model?
-- Will we see a real breakthrough for new transport technologies that are affordable, mass market, low emission, and provide practical alternative to petrol and diesel in the coming years?
-- Will waste finally become part of the solution to resource depletion rather than a disposal problem?
-- Will we find more community-based solutions to tackle fuel poverty?
-- How will national government support vulnerable local communities to adapt to changing weather patterns?
-- Will we recognise that species and habitat loss is actually detrimental to us as a society so that we respond accordingly?
-- How will we tackle environmental challenges like marine or longer-range air pollution, which need a collaborative approach between states?
With a shift in the orbit of the political planets nationally and globally, this could be seen as a time when environmental sustainability gets left behind.
But it does not have to be that way, when technological solutions to some of these problems already exist and the cost of capital is so low, whether for the home owner or landlord to improve their home insulation, a business to invest in cleaner technology or a government to invest in a lower carbon transport system.
I am anxious but also excited by what is coming. And I think that is a good starting point for effecting positive change.
-- Peter Gudde is environment manager for Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils