Sir James Bevan sums up EA state of the urban environment report in impactful 5-word phrase

Natural Environment

The EA’s state of the environment: the urban environment report was launched live today in a Zoom session co-hosted by environmental change charity Global Action Plan.

Talking about the report – which is designed to keep the focus on ‘people, nature and climate resilience’ – EA chief executive Sir James Bevan summed up his vision for urban environments in an impactful, and incidentally rather snappy, five-word phrase. He wants them to be ‘green, blue and just too’.

So how are we faring so far? Bevan argues that there is much to celebrate compared to 50 years ago. This includes the fact that our cities are better at recycling and reusing the waste they create, ‘rather than just dumping it in rivers or landfill’, urban air is far cleaner now than it was due to better regulation, legislation and technology and the fact that natural land cover makes up about 30 per cent of the urban area in England. The latter having several associated health and wellbeing benefits for surrounding communities.

However, he says, there is plenty of ‘bad news’ to report. This includes:

• Air pollution still exceeding WHO guidelines
• The quality of the water in our urban rivers being subjected to new pressures from pollutants from population growth and the climate emergency
• Deprived communities:
- having less access to green and blue spaces (59 per cent of rich households – those in the top 10 per cent income bracket – are within a 10-minute walk of publicly accessible green space, compared to 35 per cent in the bottom 10 per cent income bracket)
- tending to live in areas of high pollution which are less resilient to the effects of climate change, despite ‘having smaller carbon footprints and polluting less than wealthier communities’

How do we begin to remedy the above and more? ‘We need to clean up, green up and level up’ Bevan says.

But of course he readily admits that there are constraints to making this happen including the fact that the ‘EA has a resource issue’, and continuing on from this Bevan argues that ‘we will get the environment that we pay for’.

While reports of this kind can be in danger of being left on the proverbial shelf, Bevan was keen to emphasise that he is keen for that not to happen in this case and that the most important thing is ‘turning it into action’.

There were also encouraging noises from fellow speakers in the virtual room on the launch of the report including environmental activist and the UK director of the Black Environment Network Judy Ling Wong CBE who said the report had shown that the EA is ‘really listening’.

We’ve ended this on a positive note, and lets hope the same is true for the report’s next steps.

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