Defra opens consultation on environmental principles

11th March 2021

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The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched a consultation on five legally-binding principles that aim to put the environment at the heart of future policymaking.

Defra said that the principles will help the UK “build back greener” from COVID-19 and leave the environment in a better state for future generations.

They will come into law through the long-awaited Environment Bill – which was delayed for a third time this year – following the consultation into how they should be interpreted and proportionately applied.

“We want to embed the environment in the design, development and delivery of the government’s work,” said environment secretary George Eustice. “Our environmental principles are essential, and will ensure that ministers across Whitehall are guided to not just protect the environment, but tackle problems at their origin.”

Specifically, the proposals will require ministers to follow:

  • The integration principle, which states that policymakers should look for opportunities to embed environmental protection in other fields of policy that have impacts on the environment
  • The prevention principle, which outlines how all government policies should aim to prevent, reduce or mitigate harm
  • The rectification at source principle, which states that if damage to the environment cannot be prevented, it should be tackled at its origin
  • The polluter pays principle, which requires those who cause pollution or damage to the environment to be responsible for mitigation or compensation
  • The precautionary principle, which states that where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

The principles were welcomed by IEMA's director of policy and external affairs, Martin Baxter, who said that all government departments must contribute towards achieving environmental improvement and enhancement.

“Embedding environmental principles into the policy development framework is a key piece of environmental governance and must be aligned with the long-term targets and statutory environmental improvement plan in the Environment Bill,” he continued.

“This is an important opportunity to enhance environmental accountability and to weave a green thread through government policymaking. We will review the draft statement against IEMA’s core principles for the environment and engage members in developing our response to government.”

Stakeholders have until Wednesday 2 June 2021 to respond to the consultation.

Image credit: Shutterstock


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