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11 Nov 2021

edie newsroom

UK: Environment Bill passes into law; campaigners welcome the news, but continue to press for stronger provisions

"UK's Environment Bill finally passes into law after two years", 10 November 2021

Royal Assent was granted late on Tuesday (9 November) to the Bill, which was introduced in a bid to support the Government’s overarching vision for leaving nature in a better state for the next generation, and to confirm the UK’s approach to environmental governance post-Brexit.

Key provisions in the Bill include the creation of the new post-Brexit watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection; a new “comply or explain” mandate on deforestation for UK businesses importing forest-risk commodities and forthcoming bans on selected single-use plastic items including cutlery and polystyrene cups.

However, what is not included is, in many cases, as interesting and important as what is detailed.MPs voted last month to block a number of amendments voted for by the House of Lords, including greater provisions for ancient woodland protection in planning frameworks; restrictions on ministerial powers to weaken habitat-related regulations; a legal duty on water companies to reduce raw sewage discharges into rivers and moves to strengthen the independence of the new watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP)...

...Green groups have urged the Government to see the passing of the Bill as a starting point rather than an end destination.

WWF’s executive director of advocacy and campaigns Katie White said: “From a historic legal commitment to restore UK nature by 2030 to laws tackling illegal deforestation and conversion in UK supply chains, this legislation holds great promise and we welcome its passage into law. 

“However, for it to be worth the paper it’s printed on, the UK Government must support a truly independent Office of Environmental Protection, provide a clear target to slash the UK’s global environmental footprint and deliver robust measures outlawing both legal and illegal deforestation as soon as it possibly can....

...The Aldersgate Group’s executive director Nick Molho said: “The passage of the Environment Bill into law marks a major milestone for the UK [...] Businesses have long supported an ambitious and robust Bill, and having legally binding long-term targets will play a significant role in making continuous improvements to the natural environment.

Going forward, our collective attention should turn to delivering the ambition of the Bill on the ground.The forthcoming consultation on the development of the long-term targets must deliver ambitious targets that reflect the urgency and scale of nature restoration required. [...] Finally, to be delivered effectively and affordably, the targets of the Environment Act must be embedded across government policy in areas such as planning and agriculture.”...