3 January 2019
A draft of the highly anticipated Environment Bill, which will be central to England’s post-Brexit environmental law, was published by DEFRA on 21st December 2018. The first bill of this nature to be published in 20 years, it is hugely significant and will determine how our environment is protected upon leaving the EU. It will also build on the ambitions of the government’s 25 year environment plan, which covers targets relating to a myriad of environmental factors including mitigating and adapting to climate change.
In the foreword to the draft Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs set the scene for the Bill:
“Leaving the European Union is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this country to help make our planet greener and cleaner, healthier and happier. We are seizing this chance to set a new direction for environmental protection and governance, in line with the government’s ambition to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”
But does the draft bill go far enough in ensuring these ambitions are realised? We take a look at how three of our members responded to different aspects of the bill in public statements. The draft bill in full can be found here.
“Areas to be welcomed include the proposed legal underpinning of the 25 Year Environmental Plan, a commitment to reverse the loss of nature and the aim of putting environmental ambition and accountability at the very heart of government.
"We must, however, be in no doubt that the Bill still has a long way to go if the Government is to uphold the promise to leave nature in a better state for the next generation. This is why WWF will be campaigning for serious improvements in certain areas as the Bill passes through Parliament. This includes legally binding targets for the restoration of nature, a truly independent environmental watchdog and a duty to reduce our country’s global footprint.”
Taken from article by Tony Juniper, Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF-UK, published 21st December 2018. Read the full story here.
“In the summer, we outlined serious concerns that the proposals the government were putting forward were not nearly strong enough- basically they were proposing a written telling off as the ultimate enforcement tool that the watchdog had in its arsenal. We were also really concerned that the watchdog would not be fully independent- relying on the government for its budget, appointments and scope. Clearly this is worrying if the watchdog is to properly and effectively hold government to account. On independence, unfortunately, these plans don’t seem to have changed much and the watchdog will still be appointed by, and given its budget by Government. We will continue to push hard to ensure that when the bill is laid before Parliament, a fully independent watchdog is a key part of that legislation.
“On enforcement, the new watchdog does seem to have been beefed up somewhat. It now has the ability to issue escalating notices, in particular with specific recommendations of actions that a public authority must take in order to comply with environmental legislation. And if the authority does not comply with this, the watchdog can take the authority to court via a judicial review. Whilst we have concerns about the efficacy of judicial review and we need to better understand how this enforcement will work, this is clearly an improvement from the initial proposals.”
From analysis by Ali Plumber, Senior Policy Officer- RSPB, published 20th December 2018. Read the full story here
“Our historic environment is just as precious and vulnerable as our natural environment, faces very similar threats. In many places and landscapes (including but also beyond National Trust ones) the historic and natural environment are inseparable. One of the strengths of the 25 Year Environment Plan is that it includes the historic environment. But the Bill’s definition of the environment means that historic and cultural features are excluded from the rest of the scope of the Bill (for example from the role of the Office for Environmental Protection)."
"We’re disappointed that the historic environment is not better protected by the draft Bill and we’ll be looking more closely in the coming days and weeks at how this could be rectified.”
From an article by Matt Williams, Public Policy Officer- National Trust, published December 20th 2018 Read the full response here
We’ll be keeping an eye on how the Bill evolves and bringing you the latest news as it comes before Parliament at some point over the coming months.