The UK Government’s legislation to ‘transform’ the environment, returned to Parliament yesterday (Tuesday, 3 November) after a pause due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Environment Bill sets out government’s ambition to ensure the environment is protected following the UK’s departure from the EU.
It sets out to ‘enhance wildlife, tackle air pollution, transform how the UK manages its resources and waste, and improve the resilience of water supplies in a changing climate to ensure we protect and restore the natural environment’, government says.
Welcoming the Environment Bill back to Parliament, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Protecting and enhancing our environment is a priority for this Government, especially as we strive to build back greener from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Environment Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation for a generation, and it’s essential that we complete its passage into law as soon as possible so that we can continue our work to transform society and improve our air, water and nature.”
Protecting the environment
Legally binding targets will be introduced for air quality, nature, water and resource and waste efficiency, and a new, independent Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will be created to ‘hold government and public bodies to account’ for their environmental credentials, government says.
The Office’s enforcement powers will cover all climate change legislation and hold the government to account on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The Environment Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation for a generation, and it’s essential that we complete its passage into law as soon as possible so that we can continue our work to transform society and improve our air, water and nature
The Bill sets out to ‘transform the way we manage our waste’ – through powers to ensure that producers take responsibility for the waste they create, introducing a ‘consistent approach’ to recycling including food waste, tackling waste crime, introducing deposit return schemes and ‘more effective’ litter enforcement, and powers to introduce new charges that will aim to ‘minimise the use and impacts’ of single use plastics.
Government says that through the Bill it will also be able to ‘ban the export of plastic waste to developing countries’.
Ahead of the Environment Bill’s return, a number of amendments have been tabled by the Government for consideration. Government says these clarify how the OEP should exercise its enforcement powers so as to leave ‘no doubt’ about its thresholds for action, and to protect its confidence and ability to focus on the most serious cases whilst maintaining its crucial independence.
The OEP’s independence, however, was recently questioned when a Greener UK campaigner, who said a proposed amendment to the Environment Bill would give the government a ‘get out of jail free card’.
Following the Bill’s completion of Committee Stage, it will be further scrutinised by the whole House of Commons at Report Stage and Third Reading, after which it will move to the House of Lords for further debate and scrutiny.