Today, I am introducing the Environment Bill into the House of Commons, which will play a crucial role in delivering on the Government’s goal that this will be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
The case for tackling biodiversity loss and climate change is clear. The accelerating impact of climate change in this country, and around the world, is of profound public concern, as is the damage to nature with species loss, habitat erosion and the disappearance of cherished wildlife.
The Environment Bill, building on the vision set out in the 25 year environment plan, will help to manage the impact of human activity on the environment, create a more sustainable economy, and enhance well-being and quality of life.
A key aim of the Bill is to engage and empower citizens, local government and businesses to deliver environmental outcomes and create a positive legacy for future generations. It will also support recent legislation on reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 by reducing waste, improving air and water quality, and restoring habitats to allow plants and wildlife to thrive.
The Bill will transform our environmental governance by creating a new, world-leading system tailored to a UK context once we leave the EU. It will introduce new statutory cycle of monitoring, planning and reporting on the environment, coupled with a framework to set long-term legally binding targets, on biodiversity, air quality, waste and resource efficiency, and water. This will deliver significant environmental improvement and ensure that the Government can be held to account for their actions.
This new framework will ensure that environmental principles are embedded in Government decision making and policy development.
A new public body—the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP)—will act as an independent watchdog. The OEP will provide scrutiny and advice, and enforce the delivery of environmental law “including on climate” by public authorities where necessary.
Together, these measures form a robust framework which will maintain and enhance our environmental standards as we leave the EU. They will enable the UK to take a global lead on environmental concerns such as nature recovery and the protection of biodiversity.
The Environment Bill takes action to address some of the biggest environmental priorities of our age: air quality, nature recovery, waste and resource efficiency, and water resource management. For example, mandatory biodiversity net gain principles will ensure that new developments enhance biodiversity in conjunction with local nature recovery strategies which will help restore wildlife rich habitats to enable ecosystems to recover and thrive.
The Bill strengthens the ability for local authorities to tackle air quality issues. It will also require Government to set a legally-binding target for the pollutant with the most significant impact on human health, fine particulate matter. The Bill improves water company planning for future water supply and wastewater and drainage networks, enabling more resilient solutions to drought and flooding in a changing climate.
Extended producer responsibility and powers to set resource efficiency standards will drive a shift in the market towards products that can be more easily recycled, re-used and repaired. This, and other measures in the Bill, will play a significant part in addressing public concern about plastics waste and pollution.
This Environment Bill is a landmark commitment to protecting and improving the environment for future generations. It grasps opportunities created from leaving the European Union and I hope that it will deliver a step change in environmental protection and recovery.