Queen's Speech reaffirms Environment Bill commitment
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A new bill will enshrine legally-binding environmental targets and principles into UK law, including for air quality, the Queen's Speech has reaffirmed today.
Speaking in the House of Lords, the Queen said that the government would also ban the export of polluting plastic waste to countries outside of the OECD.
Moreover, an Environment Bill will establish an independent environmental regulator for the UK after Brexit as the country looks to achieve carbon neutrality.
“My government will continue to take the steps to meet the world-leading target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,“ the Queen said. “It will continue to lead the way in tackling global climate change, hosting the COP26 Summit in 2020.“
Environmental plans were originally announced just two months ago in October, but the ensuing general election and forming of a new government required another Queen's Speech.
The proposals also include measures to promote and protect animal welfare, such as the banning of trophy hunting imports, along with new regimes for fisheries, agriculture and trade.
New building standards will also be brought forward, while a 'national infrastructure strategy' will be introduced to improve transport and energy systems.
Speaking after today's speech, secretary of state for Scotland, Alister Jack, said: “We will take steps to improve the environment and keep the UK at the forefront of tackling climate change.
“The government is bringing world leaders to Glasgow for the COP 26 conference next year. It will showcase our advanced renewable sector, give a huge boost to the local economy and have a lasting legacy for our global environment.“
However, the WWF said that the prime minister has much to do if he is to achieve his manifesto promise of delivering “the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on Earth“.
“Boris Johnson must use all the tools at his disposal to tackle the climate and nature emergency, taking urgent and bold action in the UK to show the global leadership the world so desperately needs in 2020, said WWF chief executive, Tanya Steele.
That means truly ambitious Environment and Agriculture Bills, as well as delivering trade deals and legislation that ensure the food and products we buy in the UK aren't contributing to deforestation elsewhere in the world.“
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Over two million hectares of Brazilian rainforest could be legally converted to supply the UK with soy under a new anti-deforestation law proposed by the government, the WWF has found.
The government has announced a delay to the Environment Bill’s passage through Parliament, due to COVID-19 restrictions and a bottleneck of legislation making its way onto the statute book. It is expected that the Bill will receive significant interest in the Lords, and the pause means it will carry over into the next parliamentary session, rather than being rushed through without proper scrutiny, or risking being dropped.
The Environment Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons on 26 February and is now at Committee stage, where a cross-party group of MPs, plus the environment minister, go through the Bill line by line and consider amendments, which will be considered by parliament.