The Environment Bill was re-introduced to Parliament on 30 January 2020, with Defra releasing a policy paper alongside it.
The Bill outlines measures intended to protect and enhance the UK’s environments in a world without EU oversight.
The UK’s departure from the EU leaves an environmental ‘governance gap’. The Bill aims to ensure maintain key EU standards, including measures to tackle air pollution, meet net zero by 2050, and restore and enhance nature.
1. New Green Watchdog
The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will hold the government to account on environmental law and its Environmental Improvement Plan. The proposed body will enforce its powers through a new kind of legal instrument, an ‘environmental review’, that can force public authorities to take action if a court finds they have failed to meet environmental standards. The body will also examine the worth of new environmental policies and investigate potential breaches
2. Environmental issues enshrined in law
As part of a new environmental governance system, the Bill outlines requirements for legally binding targets on air and water quality, biodiversity, and waste efficiency. These new targets replace those under the existing EU framework.
3. Biodiversity net gain
If enacted, the Bill will enshrine in law the principle of biodiversity net gain. This would require a developer to offset and improve the value of any natural habitat damaged or destroyed as a result of development.
Biodiversity net gain applies to almost all development in England, with 10% net gain to be achieved though a structured plan. National infrastructure projects covered by the Planning Act 2008, some small developments not requiring an environmental impact assessment, or those on brownfield land, will be exempt from the net gain policy.
If a developer is unable to provide a 10% biodiversity gain in habitat creation, it must provide an offset on another piece of land or purchase conservation credits from the Secretary of State.
1. International leadership
The Bill includes a new pledge to create a two-yearly review of ‘significant developments in international legislation on the environment’ to feed into the Environmental Improvement Plan and target-setting process. The aim is to position the UK as a leader in environmental protection.
2. No commitment to non-regression
One of the changes in the ‘level playing fields’ section of Boris Johnson’s renegotiated EU Withdrawal Agreement means there is no obligation to uphold EU environmental standards. But Defra communications do stipulate that the UK will be free to go above and beyond current rules.
Read more the Environment Bill 2020 update: HERE