Sunday 22 April marked Earth Day 2018, a chance for people the world over to hold events demonstrating their support for greater environmental protections.

This year the focus was on the fundamental change that we need to deliver in terms of our attitude and behaviour towards the use of plastics. Across Tameside this issue has been thrown into sharp focus due to well documented campaigns such as Sky’s Ocean Rescue, as well as new information unearthed by Sir David Attenborough through his hugely popular BBC documentary, Blue Planet 2.

However, 2018 also proved a wake up call for our community with the blight of plastic pollution hitting much closer to home. In March it was confirmed by scientists at the University of Manchester that one part of the River Tame, near to Reddish Vale Country Park (on the Denton and Stockport border), sadly contained the world’s highest recorded level of plastic pollution at the time.

Now although subsequent research found that most of the plastics and microbeads (over 70%) were washed away into the ocean, high levels were subsequently found in other watercourses in Greater Manchester, specifically in parts of the Irwell, the Croal and the Roch, as well as the stream network around Saddleworth.

Yet Manchester was the world’s first industrial city and I am convinced that Greater Manchester today, can be a trailblazer for the green economic revolution of tomorrow. I’m encouraged for several reasons; firstly Tameside Council, and its new leader, Cllr. Brenda Warrington have taken their environmental responsibilities for our community seriously. Which is why as council leader Brenda last week took the decision to stop the sale of the grazing land at Windsor Road in Dane Bank ahead of a wider review into land sales policy in the borough because it’s essential we keep our green spaces green.

Secondly, in Andy Burnham, we have a Mayor with an ambitious agenda to make Greater Manchester one of the leading green cities in Europe. To help deliver this he has brought together some of the best environmental minds in the UK, as well as academics and researchers from the University of Manchester. Members of the public were also invited to contribute the views and ideas of their local communities.

Andy Burnham wants to bring people, community groups and businesses together in order to tackle the environmental challenges around us as well as laying the foundations for the brand new low-carbon economy of Greater Manchester’s future. Not only will this approach secure jobs and investment for the region in the decades ahead, but will also put Greater Manchester in a strong position to tackle the scourge of air, water and soil pollution.

Labour nationally takes today’s environmental challenges, as well as the opportunities of tomorrow with the seriousness that the situation deserves.

A future Labour government will bring in a Clean Air Act to deal with illegal air quality, as well as set targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, ban the use neonicotinoids insecticides as soon as our EU relationship allows us to do so, as well as creating new safeguard habitats for species in the blue belts of seas and oceans and a ban on fracking.

I’m proud of our collective response as Mancunians to every environmental and economic challenge that we have faced over the years.

I believe that the environmental and economic challenges of tomorrow can and should be tackled today.

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