Environment Bill strengthened to halt biodiversity loss by 2030

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New amendments to the Environment Bill announced by the UK Government include strengthening the duty to set a legally-binding target to halt species decline by 2030.

Between 1932 and 1984, we lost 97% of our species-rich grassland, five species of butterfly have disappeared from England in the last 150 years, and indicators showing the state of birds dependent on farmland stand at less than half their value compared to 1970.

According to the government, this new amendment reflects the Prime Minister’s pledges on the international stage during the UK’s leadership of this year’s G7 summit, with the G7 committing to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030, as well as signing up to the global ‘30×30’ initiative to conserve or protect at least 30 per cent of the world’s land and at least 30 per cent of the world’s ocean by 2030.

New measures is also set to tackle storm overflows through a new requirement for water companies to monitor the water quality impacts of their sewage discharges and publish this information.

This monitoring is also set to ‘drive action by water companies to reduce sewage discharges that do the most harm to better protect the environment and public health.’

Water companies will also be required to publish near real-time information on when their storm overflows operate.

According to the UK Government, the amendments will:

  • Strengthen the legal language of the new target to ‘halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.’
  • Place duties on water companies to monitor the water quality impact of their sewage discharges and to publish this data, as well as a duty to provide near real-time information on when storm overflows operate
  • Introduce a duty to require the Government to publish a report considering the costs and benefits of eliminating overflows entirely, which will inform Government decision-making in this area.
  • Separately, the Government will undertake a review of legislation which would require Sustainable Drainage Systems to be constructed to ministerial standards on new developments, which would reduce the pressure on the sewage system. According to the UK Government, this type of “blue-green” infrastructure can deliver a number of benefits from preventing water entering foul sewers, reducing surface flooding to improving biodiversity and improving associated carbon emissions.
  • Bring in a further safeguard for the independence of the new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) by requiring greater parliamentary scrutiny of any guidance issued to the OEP.
  • Introduce Statutory guidance for local planning authorities to explain how they should take into account new Local Nature Recovery Strategies, to embed strategies for the environment and nature’s recovery into their planning systems.
  • Create a duty and power to allow the Secretary of State to review, and increase if appropriate, the minimum duration for which new biodiversity gain sites must be secured. This will allow this important aspect of the policy to be reviewed after Government has evaluated the early years of mandatory biodiversity net gain practice, to understand how developers can make a positive impact on nature from their work
  • Bring in additional technical amendments to ‘support swifter and more effective implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility measures’, which will allow for future schemes to appoint scheme administrators through regulations. Extended Producer Responsibility schemes mean companies will be expected to cover the full cost of recycling and disposing of their packaging, and through the fees they pay they will be incentivised to use packaging that can be recycled and meet higher recycling targets.
  • Accept all the recommendations of the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee (DPRRC), which will ensure ‘appropriate scrutiny of those provisions by parliament.’

The full amendments are available on the UK Parliament website.