After many delays, the Environment Bill (now Act) was passed yesterday, meaning the body of legislation is now UK law.
The final debates surrounded a Lords proposal to strengthen regulation around sewerage disposal into waterways, and an alternative put forward by ministers was eventually agreed upon.
Crucially, the Act contains key legally binding environmental targets, overseen by the newly formed Office for Environmental Protection, which post-Brexit the UK has been without.
However, there are some areas which lobbyists say do not go far enough – particularly in terms of accountability, and the treatment of sewerage mentioned above.
Transition to a more circular economy
The Environment Act contains many key powers needed to improve waste and recycling, amongst many other areas, to enable it to deliver:
- Extend producer responsibility to make producers pay for 100% of cost of disposal of products, starting with plastic packaging
- A deposit Return Scheme for single use drinks containers
- Charges for single use plastics
- Greater consistency in recycling collections in England
- Electronic waste tracking to monitor waste movements and tackle fly-tipping
- Tackle waste crime
- Power to introduce new resource efficiency information (labelling on the recyclability and durability of products)
- Regulate shipment of hazardous waste
- Ban or restrict export of waste to non-OECD countries
Defra has said the Act will help the “transition to a more circular economy, incentivising people to recycle more, encouraging businesses to create sustainable packaging, making household recycling easier and stopping the export of polluting plastic waste to developing countries”.
We are still waiting on Defra’s Summary of Responses to these consultations, now expected early in 2022, later than originally planned.
A cornerstone of the government’s ambitions
Ecosurety Director of Innovation and Policy Robbie Staniforth commented "The process for gaining royal ascent was longer and more arduous than hoped due to the twin priorities of Brexit and Covid over the last few years. However, the Government were unwavering in their assertion that it would eventually reach the statute book. This Act is the biggest environmental legislative achievement of the last few decades. Importantly though, subsequent specific regulations are now required to turn the powers granted in the Act into action on the ground."
Environment Secretary George Eustice commented "The Environment Act will deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth. It will halt the decline of species by 2030, clean up our air and protect the health of our rivers, reform the way in which we deal with waste and tackle deforestation overseas. We are setting an example for the rest of the world to follow."
Meanwhile Dame Glenys Stacey, Chair of the new Office of Environmental Protection commented "The Environment Act is a cornerstone of the government’s ambitions to tackle ever more pressing environmental issues."
"I am delighted that the Act creates the independent Office for Environmental Protection, and gives us the tools for our job – to protect and improve the environment by holding government and public authorities to account. We are well underway with establishing a functionally independent, fully operational OEP from early in the new year."
"There has never been a more crucial time for us all to work to protect and improve our environment. The OEP will play its full part."
As Policy advisor Louisa provides key support to our team, including preparing reports on environmental policy issues and maintaining awareness of new developments. As such she will often be found coordinating responses to policy consultations, advocating policy positions and providing internal guidance to current legislation.