The long-awaited Environment Bill has returned to Parliament today (January 30) with two ‘enhanced aspects’ that promise to tackle plastic pollution and establish new environmental legislation that will be enshrined in law.
According to the government, the Bill will create legally-binding environmental improvement targets with a focus on the four priority areas of air quality; waste and resource efficiency; water and nature. It was initially brought before the House of Commons in October but was delayed due to the General Election.
The first change in the Bill is to stop the exports of plastic waste to developing countries. The government says that not only will it protect environments and ecosystems around the world, it will also provide an opportunity to boost the UK’s recycling system.
The Bill also outlines plans to introduce a two-yearly review of the environmental legislation from around the world.
It also proposes an Independent Office for Environment Protection to scrutinise environmental policy and law such as net-zero emissions by 2050.
However, in report that was also published yesterday (January 29) by the think tank Green Alliance, it is outlined that the goal of net-zero is ‘impossible’ unless the government takes more serious action to cut energy use.
Environment secretary Theresa Villiers said: ‘We are facing climate change and our precious natural environment is under threat.
‘We need to take decisive action.
‘We have set out our pitch to be a world leader on the environment as we leave the EU and the Environment Bill is a crucial part of achieving this aim.
‘It sets a gold standard for improving air quality, protecting nature, increasing recycling and cutting down on plastic waste.’
Responding to the Bill, Friends of the Earth campaigner, Kierra Box, said: ‘If the government wants to show global leadership on protecting our environment it must set out legal guarantees in the Environment Bill to ensure existing eco-laws aren’t watered down in a post-Brexit world.
‘This Bill does not offer that guarantee.
‘A strong environmental watchdog is crucial but will be useless without the resources, independence, and teeth to hold businesses and government to account.
‘Measures to stem the tide of plastic pollution are certainly welcome, but ministers must get to the heart of the crisis by introducing a binding timetable to phase-out the use of all non-essential single-use plastic.’
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