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Gove outlines updates to environment bill

Words: Laura Edgar
Biodiversity / iStock-520327791

The government’s ambitions for the forthcoming environment bill have been set out and updated in a policy statement.

The statement includes commitments to legislate on environmental governance, air, biodiversity, water, and waste and resource efficiency.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “We know we must do all we can to protect our precious natural environment. There is a clear need to act to ensure we do not leave this planet to the next generation more polluted, more dangerous and denuded of its natural riches.”

He said measures in the environment bill would position the UK as a “world leader”, ensuring that after the UK has left the EU “environmental ambition and accountability are placed more clearly than ever before at the heart of government”.

The plans are aimed at improving air quality, Gove continued, “so that our children live longer, restore habitats and increase biodiversity, strive towards a more circular economy and ensure we can manage our precious water resources in a changing climate”.

The bill forms part of the government’s plan to put its 25-year environment plan on a statutory footing.

The policy statement includes:

  • Green governance:

- The bill will establish a “world-leading” environmental watchdog in the Office of Environmental Protection, which will scrutinise and advise the government on the environment as well as being able to bring legal proceedings against government and public authorities.
- The environmental governance measures in the bill aim to ensure that future governments set out clear plans and report on their progress in a statutory cycle of environment improvement plans.

  • Air quality:

- The government will ensure that all local bodies with powers to control emissions act together in a coordinated way.
- Local authorities will be given stronger powers to reduce emissions from polluting domestic burning.

  • Restoring and enhancing nature and green spaces

- Mandating biodiversity net gain to secure tens of millions of pounds a year in additional revenue for nature. That money will be invested in habitats such as new woodlands, grasslands and wetlands.
- Legislating for conservation covenants to make sure land owners have the opportunity to legally lock in the benefits generated by policies like net gain and our farming reform.

  • A new direction for resources and waste management

- The bill will support regulators in ensuring that customers and the environment are protected. The government will legislate to strengthen Ofwat’s powers to update water companies’ licences, in order to make sure that they can do their job.

The government has also published responses to several consultations that aim to inform the government’s work to protect the environment and the bill. They are biodiversity net gain; conservation covenants; improving our management of water in the environment; a deposit return scheme for drinks containers; consistency in household and business recycling; and extended producer responsibility.

Read more:

RTPI seeks assurances on forthcoming environment act

Gove publishes draft green governance bill 

Government to strengthen environmental protections in the NPPF

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