New legally binding targets for Environment Bill announced

19th August 2020

The Government has today (19th August) announced plans for new legally binding targets within the Environment Bill.

They have outlined that there will be at least one long-term target in four priority areas to drive significant and lasting environmental improvements: cleaner air, cleaner water, less waste and more biodiversity.

Iain Patton, CEO at EAUC, said: “Legally binding targets are certainly a step in the right direction, and the EAUC welcomes them. However, the time frames to develop and deliver them are still concerning. A consultation on proposed targets is not due until 2022, and the targets mid to late 2030s. This is too late. The interim targets could be reassuring, but they are not legally binding and this will likely mean there is less impetus to reach these. We hope that the detail to come will provide reassurances.”

The four priority areas, and proposed objectives for targets, include:
·         Air quality: To support our robust action to improve air quality across the country, we will explore targets focusing specifically on reducing public exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), the air pollutant that has the most significant impact on our health
·         Resource efficiency and waste reduction: Potential targets will look to increase resource productivity and reduce the volume of residual waste and plastic pollution we generate
·         Biodiversity: We will explore targets to restore and create wildlife-rich habitats in our protected sites on land, in freshwaters and at sea and in the wider countryside, and to increase species populations on land and improve marine biodiversity
·         Water: We will also look to set targets to tackle pollution from agriculture and waste water to improve water quality, as well as a target on water demand to reduce the volume that is abstracted

Environment Secretary George Eustice, said: “The targets we set under our landmark Environment Bill will be the driving force behind our bold action to protect and enhance our natural world - guaranteeing real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today.

“I hope these targets will provide some much-needed certainty to businesses and society, as we work together to build back better and greener.”
Reacting to the publication of the Government’s environmental targets policy paper, Signe Norberg, Public Affairs Manager at Aldersgate Group, said: “Today’s publication of the environmental targets policy paper represents a significant opportunity for the UK to set new, ambitious and legally binding targets. These targets need to set a clear expectation for future policies and result in coherent and holistic improvements to the natural environment. If designed correctly, these targets will provide much needed long-term policy direction to businesses, shape environmental policies in the decades to come, and drive private sector investment in the natural environment. This is the beginning of that process, and we look forward to working with the Government in developing these targets further.”

The Environment Bill’s passage through Parliament was temporarily paused due to Covid-19, but the Government says it resume its passage as soon as possible. The Government state the targets should be set in statute by October 2022.
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