OEP powers outlined in landmark Environment Bill

15th October 2019

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Sarah Chambers

The UK government will today publish its much-anticipated Environment Bill after the landmark legislation was announced in the Queen's Speech yesterday.

The bill will outline powers for a new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) that cover all climate change law, and task the regulator with holding the government to account on reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

Legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality, water, and resource and waste efficiency, will be confirmed, along with requirements for environmental improvement plans.

Charges on a number of single-use plastic items will be introduced, while new measures will extend responsibility for waste disposal to those who produce it.

Environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, said: “Our landmark Environment Bill leads a green transformation that will help our country to thrive.

It positions the UK as a world leader on improving air quality, environmental biodiversity, a more circular economy, and managing our precious water resources in a changing climate.

“It also ensures that, after Brexit, environmental ambition and accountability are placed more clearly than ever before at the heart of government, both now and in the future.“

The bill will introduce legally binding targets for fine PM2.5 particulate matter, and increase local powers to address air pollution, such as working with families to help them use cleaner fuels.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that manufacturers would also be forced to recall vehicles when they do not meet relevant environmental standards.

A biodiversity net gain requirement will boost nature on new developments, while recovery strategies will be set up, and local communities given a greater say in the protection of trees.

Moreover, the government plans to introduce a consistent approach to recycling, along with bottle deposit return schemes and more effective litter enforcement.

Increasing sustainable water management through long-term, resilient water services will also be announced, along with new powers that direct water companies to work together to meet current and future demand.

And although the bill applies to England only, more than half of its measures – such as those designed to drive up recycling rates – are designed to apply across the UK.

Much of the policy proposals were developed in collaboration with sustainability body IEMA, such as biodiversity net gain for new developments and extended producer responsibility for plastic waste.

IEMA's work on the Broadway Initiative was also crucial in helping design plans for post-Brexit environmental protections, such as overarching sustainability targets.

Martin Baxter, IEMA's chief policy advisor, said: “The bill aims to reset the relationship between the environment, society and the economy and we are pleased that government has responded positively to the elements that IEMA and other Broadway Initiative partners have advocated.

“IEMA supports the proposals to set legally binding targets to address air pollution, plastic waste, biodiversity loss and water resources as this will provide much needed certainty to allow businesses and all parts of society to plan, invest and collaborate to substantially improve the environment for the long term.“

“The bill establishes a good baseline for putting sustainability at the heart of our economic model.

“We will work with government and parliamentarians to make the necessary improvements needed to turn the bill into a world-leading legislative framework as it passes through the House of Commons and Lords.“

Image credit: Shutterstock

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