A bill with ambition

27th March 2019

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Peter Christopher Birch

IEMA's work on the forthcoming Environment Bill is gathering pace, with only a relatively short period of time left before it is due to be put before parliament.

There are two key elements to our work. First, putting forward suggested improvements to the draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill in order to address key weaknesses, including:

  • Closing the loopholes on environmental principles (particularly the derogations for defence, taxation and public spending) and reducing the powers for the Secretary of State to disapply the principles through regulations
  • Strengthening how key environmental principles will be applied by ministers
  • Enhancing the independence of the proposed Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) by giving parliament a role in key appointments and resource allocation.

Second, as part of the Broadway Initiative, we're working on the more ambitious parts of the Bill – in particular the establishment of a process for setting legally binding long-term targets and milestones for the environment, together with national environmental improvement plans and local delivery mechanisms to achieve them. This has involved participating in roundtables with the Defra minister and key officials, as well as hosting a large-scale collaboration with 200 stakeholders from trade bodies, professional bodies, policy officials from across government, regulatory agencies, NGOs and businesses. A report with policy recommendations will shortly be published and sent to the prime minister and key cabinet ministers, seeking their support.

The Scottish government has published its Consultation on Environmental Principles and Governance in Scotland, which IEMA will respond to. In addition, the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has also set out its plans in relation to environmental principles and governance. We will be exploring where there will be a need to develop common approaches and arrangements for managing shared environmental resources, dealing with cross-UK home nation borders, and arrangements for ensuring and demonstrating UK-wide compliance with international environmental agreements. Interesting times!

Martin Baxter, IEMA chief policy advisor

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