The UK Government has decided to postpone the Environment Bill after it was debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday (26 January).
Ministers are ‘still committed’ to the legislation, the UK Government says, but the pandemic has left too little time to scrutinise it properly.
Amendments to the planned legislation were debated by MPs, but the Bill will likely not return to the Commons until the next Parliamentary session in the spring, and not likely to come into law until the Autumn, says Friends of the Earth campaigner.
This delay is not the action of a government wanting to demonstrate world leadership on the environmental crisis.
The Bill was first announced in 2018 under former Prime Minister Teresa May but had to be brought forward once more following the general election in 2019.
Reacting to news that the government’s flagship environment bill has been delayed, and not expected to become law until the autumn, Friends of the Earth campaigner Kierra Box said: “Boris Johnson’s flagship environment bill was already riddled with loopholes and omissions, and it now appears to be listing badly.
“This delay is not the action of a government wanting to demonstrate world leadership on the environmental crisis.
“Ministers must get on with the urgent task of cutting pollution, improving biodiversity, and stemming the flow of plastic waste pouring into our environment.”
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.
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 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’.