This year promises to be critical for environment and sustainability policy, with the early part marked by a series of important changes.

Principal among these is the triggering of article 50, which should happen before the end of March and will begin the UK’s departure from the EU.

Chief policy advisor Martin Baxter said policy activity is likely to focus on a long-term strategy, which will ‘lock in the direction of travel’ for many years. ‘Getting it right and maintaining momentum will be a challenge in the face of short-term competing demands,’ he warned.

‘It is essential that we grasp the opportunity to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and sustainable economy. IEMA will ensure that the environment and sustainability profession makes a positive contribution in these policy areas, helping to set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.’

Baxter explains the significance of five key policy areas members should look out for in early 2017:

  • Industrial strategy – ‘This will provide the opportunity to embed the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and gives a progressive outlook for a future outside the EU.’
  • Reform of corporate governance – ‘This move is about ensuring an effective corporate governance framework is in place, and is critical to re-establishing trust in companies. Key areas being looked at include executive pay ratios with other workers, strengthening the employee, customer and supplier voice in corporate decision-making; and exploring whether to enhance reporting and transparency requirements for the UK’s largest privately-held businesses.’
  • Carbon emissions reduction plan – ‘Achieving the UK’s fifth carbon budget (2028–32) requires comprehensive action to tackle greenhouse-gas emissions from heating, transport and electricity generation. We also need to go much further and faster to significantly enhance energy efficiency. A credible plan with cross-government support is critical to unlocking low-carbon investment.’
  • 25-year environment, and food and farming plans – ‘Delivering on the long-term vision to enhance the value of natural capital over a generation, these plans will need to be mutually supportive in both setting high levels of environmental protection and enhancement, while setting a long-term framework for land management and food production when the EU Common Agricultural Policy no longer applies in the UK.’
  • Great Repeal Bill – ‘Due to be announced in the Queen’s Speech – assuming article 50 notification for the UK to leave the EU is issued in line with the government’s Brexit timetable – the Bill will transpose EU law into UK law “wherever practical” and be enacted immediately when the UK exits. For those aspects of EU environmental law that cannot be directly converted into UK law, there will have to be some quick thinking.’