Environment Bill

Government strengthens Environment Bill to build back greener

Reinforced commitments to protect the environment for future generations have been made following new amendments to the landmark Environment Bill.

The announcement aims to support the delivery of the 25 Year Environment Plan and is part of the government’s commitment to tackle the threat of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Following work with parliamentarians and wider stakeholders, amendments include strengthening the duty to set a legally binding target to halt species decline by 2030 and introduce statutory guidance for local planning authorities to explain how they should consider new local nature recovery strategies.

The Environment Bill is set to bring forward action to address environmental challenges, including biodiversity loss, climate change, and waste and pollution of the air, water and land.

“The Environment Bill is at the vanguard of our work to implement the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth,” commented environment secretary, George Eustice. 

“We have been clear about the need, and our intention, to halt the decline of our natural environment, and so we are strengthening our world leading target to put this beyond doubt. 

“It will be a challenging task, but halting this decline is a crucial part of our commitment to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state.”

The amendments will:

  • strengthen the legal language of the target to ‘halt the decline in species abundance by 2030’
  • place duties on water companies to monitor the water quality impact of their sewage discharges and to publish this data, as well as provide near real-time information on when storm overflows operate
  • introduce a responsibility to require the government to publish a report considering the costs and benefits of eliminating overflows entirely which will inform decision making in this area
  • ensure the government undertakes a review of legislation which would require sustainable drainage systems to be constructed to ministerial standards on new developments, which would reduce the pressure on the sewage system
  • bring in a further safeguard for the independence of the new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) by requiring greater parliamentary scrutiny of any guidance issued to the OEP
  • introduce statutory guidance for local planning authorities to explain how they should take into account new local nature recovery strategies to embed plans for the environment and nature’s recovery into their planning systems
  • create a duty and power to allow the secretary of state to review, and increase if appropriate, the minimum duration for which new biodiversity gain sites must be secured 
  • bring in additional technical amendments to support swifter and more effective implementation of extended producer responsibility measures, which will allow for future schemes to appoint scheme administrators through regulations — saving time and money
  • accept all the recommendations of the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which will ensure appropriate scrutiny of those provisions by parliament

“Our new package of measures on storm overflows will help crack down on the pollution in our rivers, waterways and coastlines, to better tackle the harm that they cause,” Eustice added. 

Between 1932 and 1984, the UK lost 97% of its species-rich grassland, five species of butterfly have disappeared from England in the last 150 years, and indicators show the state of birds dependent on farmland stand at less than half their value compared to 1970.

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