This Wednesday, IEMA hosted a roundtable with Defra, members of the Institute, and other experts to discuss the recently published Environmental Improvement Plan (EIP). Here, IEMA’s Head of Policy, Ben Goodwin, looks at the key talking points.

We were delighted to be joined by Andrew Jackson, Deputy Director for Environment Strategy at Defra who kicked off the roundtable by providing an overview of the EIP both in terms of its aims and in relation to how it will be delivered.

The EIP is centred around 10 long-term goals. These include goals on plants and wildlife, clean air and water through to others that focus on mitigating and adapting to climate change.

The EIP builds on the 25-Year Environment Plan that was published five years ago and in essence is the government’s updated long-term programme for protecting and enhancing the condition of the natural environment. Its publication also follows the setting of a suite of legally binding targets (covering air quality, biodiversity, water and resource efficiency) that through the activities contained within the EIP are expected to be delivered over the course of decades to come.

The delivery of the EIP and realisation of the legally binding targets are arguably a pan-government and economy wide undertaking. A key challenge raised during the roundtable discussions was that the policy instruments for helping departments across government to better factor environmental considerations into decision-making do not effectively articulate the goals and objectives put forward in the EIP.

For large infrastructure client organisations, be that Network Rail, National Grid and the like, a similar sentiment was expressed in the sense that there is a lack of co-ordination around how the implementation of the EIP will work on the ground. There was appetite expressed for cross-industry fora and initiatives to address this.

Other discussion points included the need for the development of common standards to enable different sectors to report consistently against progress being made on the delivery of the EIP and more specifically, the legally binding targets.

On the targets themselves, there were question marks over the level of ambition in certain areas, with the target for increasing woodland cover one where it was felt that the bar should have been set higher. The agreed target in this area (for England) is to increase tree canopy and woodland cover to 16.5% of total land area by 2050.

However, there was also acknowledgement that the environmental policy and legislative landscape has shifted drastically since the UK left the European Union and following the establishment of the Environment Act in 2021. Whilst the current situation might not be perfect, it is one in which government and industry must work together effectively to find fit-for-purpose solutions.

There was recognition at the close of the roundtable that the onus cannot simply be placed on government alone.

The EIP is an area that IEMA’s public affairs roundtable series will no doubt visit again in the future. As a reminder highlights from the series include:

If you would like to find out more about future roundtables, then please get in touch at [email protected].

Photo of Ben goodwin
Ben Goodwin

Director of Policy and Public Affairs, IEMA, IEMA

Ben is Director of Policy and Public Affairs at IEMA. In this capacity he looks after the delivery of IEMAs core policy, practice and public affairs activities across a range of environmental and sustainability issues. Prior to joining the organisation Ben worked in several similar policy roles at organisations including the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Renewable Energy Association.


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