Consultation launched on legally-binding environmental targets

16th March 2022

The UK government has today launched an eight-week consultation on its plans for legally-binding environmental targets.

The proposed long-term targets for air quality, water, biodiversity and waste are a cornerstone of the government’s Environment Act, which passed into law in November last year.

They include cutting exposure to the harmful air pollutant PM2.5 by over a third compared to 2018 levels, and halving the waste that ends up at landfill or incineration by 2042.

Expanding total tree cover by 3% by 2050, and increasing species populations by 10% by 2042, are also among the proposed targets, along with a requirement to reduce pollution from abandoned metal mines in water courses and improve water use efficiency.

It is hoped that the new targets will provide long-term certainty to businesses and society, stimulate innovation and economic growth, and create and support green jobs across the country.

Reacting to the proposals, IEMA's Policy and External Affairs Director, Martin Baxter, said: “The government’s proposed legally-binding targets set environmental outcomes for resource efficiency and waste, biodiversity, water and air quality over various timescales ranging from 2030 to 2050.

“From a business perspective, government needs to give greater clarity on the contribution that will be required from different sectors, and the pace of change that will be needed to ensure the targets are achieved.

“It is critical that these targets join up with current and emerging policy, alongside the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) and cross-government environmental improvement efforts.”

The government has also today set out proposals to restore nature and halt species decline by 2030 in a new Nature Recovery Green Paper.

This includes a rationalised legal framework, supported by local expertise and scientific judgement, to give regulators confidence when making conservation decisions for nature sites.

The government’s response to the Green Paper and environmental targets consultations are expected to be published in early summer 2022.

“We urgently need to halt the decline of biodiversity and move towards a sustainable model that delivers for the economy and the environment,” Baxter continued.

“We welcome publication of the government’s Green Paper as an opportunity to create a new framework of protection for nature and crucially its recovery.

“However, it is vital that nature recovery is prioritised in land use plans, agricultural incentives and water resource management, to make public and private investment in nature’s recovery an incentive to business, alongside taking action on climate change.”

Image credit: iStock

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