IEMA calls for 'politically durable' environmental targets post-Brexit

7th March 2019

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Paul Finnie

IEMA's chief policy advisor Martin Baxter has stressed the need for cross-party consensus when designing environmental targets for the UK after Brexit.

Speaking at a built environment event in London yesterday, Baxter said political parties must not be able to rip up targets from previous governments as they see fit, and that overarching objectives need to be established.

He warned that the proposed framework for environmental principles has holes, and “looks more like a colander“ than a comprehensive way of improving the environment going forward.

“The environment shouldn't be a political football, booted around between different political parties – it is more important than that,“ Baxter said.

“What we need is a durable system of environmental governance that is predictable for private and public sector investment so we don't end up heading off in a different direction with a change of government or minister.“

Addressing sustainability professionals at Futurebuild 2019, Baxter also said it was “vitally important“ that the future framework has “legal teeth“, and sets a clear direction for future governments.

This should include “galvanising statements“ about what the country hopes to achieve – something that the current draft of the Environment Bill is lacking.

Moreover, Baxter highlighted the need for environmental improvement plans to be considered from a local level, and not just from a national perspective like the government's 25-year Environment Plan does.

Unlike with climate change, he said the natural environment could be more of a local challenge, with air quality being more worrying in London than in areas like Lincolnshire, for example.

“Understanding how we relate local priorities is crucial for a bottom-up approach, democratising the environment far more so communities contribute to the achievement of national targets,“ he explained.

“We can only do this if we have proper participatory processes, because we all have a stake in the environment and a contribution to make.“

Despite the considerable challenges, Baxter said there is an opportunity for the UK to develop a brighter future for environmental management that takes a much more holistic approach.

“We see the forthcoming Environment Act as being the start of the UK's environmental constitution,“ he continued. “The challenges we face are great, and it is only through collaboration that we will be able to fix them.“

Image credit: iStock


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