The Environmental Audit Committee has called for legally binding targets on water quality to be enshrined in the Environment Bill.
The call came on 17 January, when the Committee published its Sustainable Seas report. This put forward wide ranging recommendations on safeguarding the marine environment, particularly in the face of climate change.
The MPs said: “Many of the chemical pollutants found in the ocean are from land-based sources. It is worrying that the UK is lagging behind other countries in the EU with regards to nitrate pollution, and much greater progress must be made to reducing land-based sources of chemical pollution. The government should, as part of its Environment Bill, produce legally binding targets on water quality in-line with or exceeding those set out in the EU Water Framework Directive. These targets should be underpinned by clear milestones.”
They further observed: “We are treating our seas as a sewer. Most of the action required to protect the seas relies on action on land. More than 80 per cent of marine pollution is from land-based sources, reaching the ocean through waterways, sewers and drains. Excess nutrients from fertilisers, mismanaged waste and contaminants such as heavy metals, radioactive materials, pharmaceuticals, oils and untreated sewage all pollute the sea. Plastic makes up 70 per cent of all the litter in the ocean, and if no action is taken to reduce its input, then it is forecast to treble within the next ten years.”
It called on the government to urgently tackle “the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ or ‘sea blindness’ attitude to the seas” much more broadly, including meeting the Paris Agreement on climate change to limit global warming to 1.5ºC. “The government must not delay in implementing the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on how to meet the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and set out its plans for this in the first half of 2019. This should include setting a net-zero emissions target by 2050 at the very latest.”
Elsewhere there were recommendations on plastic pollution, sustainable fisheries, deep sea mining, marine consultation and international leadership.