The UK Environment Bill, a landmark legislation to protect and maintain the environment has resumed its passage (on Tuesday, 3 November) through Parliament after a brief hiatus due to the Coronavirus.
What is the Bill?
Although the legislation is still in the draft face and not currently in force, the hope is that it is officially accepted and published within the next six months. It is a comprehensive bill of just under 250 pages split into the following primary subdivisions: Environmental Governance, Environmental Governance: Northern Ireland, Waste and Resource Efficiency, Air Quality and Environmental Recall, Water, Nature and Biodiversity, Conservation Covenants.
In essence, the legislation set long-term targets in respect of any matter which relates to (a) the natural environment, or (b) people’s enjoyment of the natural environment. The key impetus behind these targets is set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan, which deals with how to improve wildlife protection, combat air pollution, fundamentally change how to manage our resources and waste, and improve the resilience of water supplies. The UK is also hosting the COP26 climate change conference as part of its effort to protect the environment.
What will be the main changes?
A new independent Office for Environmental Protection will be launched that will hold both the government and public bodies into account on the commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Other key targets include:
- improving air quality – by requiring a legally binding target to reduce concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), the pollutant of most concern for human health, and by increasing local powers to address sources of air pollution
- restore and enhance nature – through ‘biodiversity net gain’ ensuring new development enhances nature, helping to deliver thriving natural spaces for local communities.
- change the way waste is managed – 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.
- protect water resources – by increasing sustainable water management through securing long-term, resilient water and wastewater services in the face of a changing climate.
The Bill also sets a new domestic framework for environmental governance as a result of leaving the European Union. The Bill will be further examined by the whole House of Commons, after which it will move to the House of Lords for further study. To find out more about how you can help prepare for the environmental legislation changes post-Brexit, contact us.