Gove gives update on Environment Bill and plastics consultations

23rd July 2019

Michael Gove has today (Tuesday 23 July) provided an update on progress towards the introduction of the landmark Environment Bill.
In the online summer policy update, it says: “Faced with the unprecedented decline of our natural environment, science clearly shows that tackling biodiversity loss, climate change, air quality and plastics pollution is a priority.
“With public concern about the environment and climate also at an all-time high, urgent action is required to drive necessary change. We need to fundamentally rethink how we approach environmental sustainability and enhancement, and the way we plan, invest and live.”
Before going on to highlight progress since the Bill was first published back in December 2018:
  • Received the pre-legislative scrutiny reports from two Parliamentary Select Committees outlining their recommendations.
  • Laid legislation to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050
  • Published the first progress report on the 25 Year Environment Plan
  • Put in a joint bid with Italy under a UK Presidency to host COP26 in 2020
  • Published six government responses following public consultations to seek views on a range of environmental issues that will be addressed in the Environment Bill.
  • Continued collaboration with the Scottish and Welsh Governments and the Northern Ireland Civil Service.
Published at the same time is 6 consultation summary responses and next steps. You can find them here:
  1. A deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers – More than 200,000 people responded to this consultation, demonstrating strong support for a DRS scheme. The Bill will introduce powers that will enable a deposit return scheme to be implemented in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 2023.
Next steps are:
  • To seek primary powers to implement deposit return schemes in the Environment Bill
  • to hold a second consultation in 2020 on the regulatory framework for introducing a DRS through secondary legislation
  • following the second consultation, we would introduce a DRS from 2023
  1. Consistency in household and business recycling – The government aims to make it easier for people to recycle by implementing a consistent and simplified approach across local authorities. The government will legislate to introduce a core set of consistent recyclable materials (including food waste) to be collected from all households and businesses, supporting frequent and comprehensive rubbish and recycling collections. It will also require manufacturers to put clearer labelling on packaging so consumers know what they can recycle.
Next steps are:
  • To work with local authorities, waste management businesses, as well as other organisations and businesses to develop more detailed regulations and guidance to implement consistency in recycling.
  1. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) – The Environment Secretary has been clear he wants to drive a shift in the market towards durable, repairable and recyclable products. New powers to enact EPR schemes that will ensure producers pay the full costs of managing the disposal of their products will be sought, as well as powers to enable government to set resource efficient product requirements.
Next steps are:
  • Seek to take primary powers in the Environment Bill to enable them to implement new extended producer responsibility systems.
  • Consider the responses and evidence submitted in more detail and undertake further analysis to inform more detailed proposals on the specific nature of an extended producer responsibility scheme for packaging and related secondary legislation. This work will be taken forward over the remainder of 2019 and they anticipate bringing final proposals forward for consultation in 2020.
  • Continue to develop the Impact Assessment.
  • Seek to ensure that the plastic packaging tax being developed by HM Treasury complements the reforms to the packaging producer responsibility system. The tax will create greater demand for recycled plastic with the packaging EPR system incentivising both the design and use of easier-to-recycle plastic packaging and the collection and separation of plastic packaging for recycling.
  • Engage with product manufacturing, retail and packaging businesses and their associated trade bodies, local government, waste management companies and reprocessors as well as the Regulators and other organisations as we develop our final proposals.
  • Implement the necessary changes as soon as practical. The target year for packaging EPR to come into effect is 2023.
  1. Biodiversity net gain – A mandatory approach to biodiversity net gain will be introduced in the Bill that will legally require developers to ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced, with a 10% increase in habitat for wildlife compared with the pre-development baseline.
  2. Conservation covenants - The government plans to legislate on conservation covenants, a voluntary agreement between a landowner and others (for example, a conservation charity) to help guarantee positive local conservation for the long term.
  3. Improving our management of water in the environment – The Environment Secretary has been clear that water companies need to do more to help improve the environment and better prepare for future demand for water. There was strong support in response to a consultation on proposals to improve long-term planning of water resources and drainage. The Bill will introduce powers to direct water companies to work together to address these issues, such as transferring supplies between catchments during drought conditions, and instructing them to have robust plans in place to maintain supplies.
Additionally, a report on air quality was published. Titled ‘Air quality: Assessing progress towards WHO guideline levels of PM2.5 in the UK’, you can read it here.  It states that: “On the basis of scientific modelling, which has not considered full economic viability and practical deliverability, we believe that, whilst challenging, it would be technically feasible to meet the WHO guideline level for PM2.5 across the UK in the future. Substantive further analysis is needed to understand what would be an appropriate timescale and means, and we will work with a broad range of experts, factoring in economic, social and technological feasibility to do this.”
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