In an update on progress towards the introduction of the first Environment Bill for over 20 years, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has issued a policy statement setting out new measures to enhance wildlife, transform our waste system and improve the resilience of our water supplies.
The new Environment Bill, due to be put before the second session of Parliament after September, will establish a comprehensive legal framework for environmental improvement, creating a new, world-leading Office for Environmental Protection that will hold this government and future governments to account.
Following public consultations, the Bill will introduce a mandatory approach to biodiversity net gain, requiring developers to ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced rather than destroyed as a result of new construction. This will set out a 10% increase in habitat value for wildlife compared with the pre-development baseline.
New powers will be brought forward to enable local government to better tackle the challenges created by local air pollution with responsibility for clean air shared across local government and relevant public bodies.
The Bill also sets out a new direction for resource and waste management, eschewing the traditional ‘linear’ economic model of ‘take, make, use, throw’ in favour of extended recycling and producer responsibility. A deposit return scheme will be introduced to increase rates of plastic and drinks can recycling and government is seeking a power to be able to introduce charges for specified single use plastic items.
A series of measures will fundamentally change the way businesses and produce and consume products, including improved labelling to enable citizens to make fully informed purchasing decisions.
Producers of packaging will pay the full net cost of dealing with their packaging waste to incentivise recyclability in its design. At the moment, producers currently only pay about 10% of these costs.
Sustainable water resources
Through the Environment Bill, government will legislate to strengthen Ofwat’s powers to update water companies’ licences and to improve the way that water companies operate. The Bill sets out powers to direct water companies to work together on how they will meet current and future demand for water; ensuring we can maintain supplies, even in drought conditions.
This will include working jointly to transfer water between catchments when needed.
A statutory cycle of Environment Improvement Plans will ensure progress is maintained for years into the future; after we leave the EU, government is presented with an opportunity to introduce world-leading environmental priorities. At ICON, we hope they don’t waste it.