Targets and resource
The Bill includes commitments to set targets on a whole range of measures, but particularly around air quality, water, biodiversity, resource efficiency and waste reduction. The test for the credibility of these targets is whether they ‘significantly improve the state of the natural environment’. Third sector organisations, including our members, will have an opportunity to send evidence for the right kinds of targets by sharing their own data, and therefore ensuring that adequate funding and resource is put in place in order to deliver on those targets.
Monitoring and accountability
The new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will be the key force for ensuring the Act is delivering on its commitments, and third sector organisations will have a major voice through the complaints process, identifying any inconsistencies in approach and flagging lack of resource. Organisations should be able to secure funding from the OEP for delivering the work set out in the Act.
Key areas of impact
A) Waste and resource efficiency
Priority areas highlighted in the bill include producer responsibility, resource efficiency, managing waste, and waste enforcement and regulations. Of particular note in the bill are policies on plastics; it is proposed that a charge be passed on to producers of single-use plastics. There will be a wider rollout of charges for single use plastic items, similar to those for plastic bags. This could potentially affect charity retailers who sell single use plastic items in their shops. A deposit return scheme for single-use plastic bottles is also being considered.
Much tighter regulations around water have been proposed. For our land-owning members with abstraction licenses, if the full quota is not being used then the headroom could be taken without compensation.
C) Nature and biodiversity
Any new developments will be required to make a 10% net biodiversity gain. There will also be a register of net gain sites and, for some Fit for the Future members, there may be opportunities to find revenue through developing and supporting such sites.
Proposals are slightly different for the devolved parts of the UK, so members will need to look carefully at which parts of the Act will be affecting them.
Some have questioned the independence of the OEP, however it should be able to operate effectively under the Secretary of State in a similar way to the Committee on Climate Change.
It will be important that this Act does not operate in isolation, but works alongside other key areas such as adaptation, the industrial strategy, net zero work and the Agricultural Bill.
Timeline for the Bill
The plan is to start introducing key aspects of the Act, once passed, from 1st January 2021.
Fit for the Future Network will continue to work alongside IEMA to keep members up to date on this process, so keep an eye on forthcoming newsletters and our website.
This webinar was one of a series of events and meetings organised by Fit for the Future throughout the year to ensure that our members have the most up-to-date knowledge about the topics that matter to them. You can browse our full calendar of events here, or find out how to join Fit for the Future and gain a support network of hundreds of environmental practitioners across the UK.