Environment Bill (UK)

I posted months ago about HMG proposal for a new Environment Bill. There has not been an Environment Bill since 1995.

Progress to date has been weak, and the aspects that were published so far related only to the Governance and Principles aspects.

Today, 23rd July, the DEFRA Secretary has published an updated Policy Statement (of intentions) – here.

Note : Environment is a policy area that is devolved to the regional nations, so the legislative proposals below would apply in England only. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would decide themselves whether and what to follow.

Note : this Statement identifies the Environment Bill will be introduced in the second Parliamentary Session (we are still in the First).

Air quality

(1) Legislation on key measures in the Clean Air Strategy – sharing responsibility for tackling air pollution (across local government structures and with relevant public bodies), plus enabling local government to tackle emissions from domestic burning.

(2) Powers for government to mandate recalls of vehicles and machinery, when they do not meet relevant legal emission standards.

Nature

(3) Nature policy to have a local community focus – a mandatory approach to biodiversity net gain requiring developers to ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced, with a 10% increase in habitat value for wildlife compared with the pre-development baseline (national infrastructure projects excepted – we will continue to work to establish potential approaches to achieving biodiversity net gains for nationally significant infrastructure projects and marine development, which remain out of scope of biodiversity net gain in the Bill).

(4) Re net gain, planning and the future Environmental Land Management system (replacing agricultural land subsidies) – a new statutory requirement for Local Nature Recovery Strategies. The aim is for these strategies to help to map out important habitats and opportunities for the local environment to be improved, linking communities’ knowledge and priorities with national environmental objectives.

(5) A new duty on local authorities to consult with local communities to ensure that consultation takes place when a street tree is to be felled.

(6) Legislation on conservation covenants – voluntary agreements between a landowner and others (for example, a conservation charity) to help deliver positive local conservation.

Waste

(7) A series of measures that will fundamentally change the way government, businesses and individuals produce and consume products (this will be a big change).

(8) New legal powers to allow government to set resource-efficiency standards for products, driving a shift in the market towards products that are lasting, can be repaired and can be recycled. Plus clear labelling to enable citizens to make fully informed purchasing decisions.

(9) New powers to introduce Extended Producer Responsibility schemes – for packaging, producers will pay the full net cost of dealing with their packaging waste to incentivise recyclability in its design (this is in line with other countries). At the moment, producers currently only pay about 10% of these costs. This will be a fundamental change to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Producer Responsibility Law.

(10) Legislation to modernise the government’s powers to set producer responsibility obligations, extending them to prevention and redistribution of waste, in particular tackling food waste where there is no Legislation in England.

(11) A simplified approach to recycling across local authorities, making it simpler for the public to recycle. A consistent set of materials will need to be collected from all households and businesses in England, with clearer labelling on packaging.

(12) New powers to enable deposit return schemes, particularly dealing with plastic waste. Plus a new power to be able to introduce charges for specified single use plastic items. (Note, there is new EU Law in this area, I posted about recently).

(13) The Litter Strategy commits to review the mechanism by which councils and other land-managers can be held to account for maintaining their land to the standards set out in the Code of Practice. This includes the current section 91 Environment Protection Act process and other options, taking into account the impacts on local authority prioritisation and costs, the court system and the exchequer.

(14) A series of measures unspecified) to improve the management of waste, enabling better use of resources and to reduce the risk of economic, environmental and social harm.

Water

(15) Legislation to strengthen Ofwat’s powers to update water companies’ licences – in particular bringing the way in which water companies appeal Ofwat decisions in line with that for other utility regulators.

(16) New powers to direct water companies to work together on how they will meet current and future demand for water; making planning more robust, even in drought conditions and/or in areas of water stress, for example by working jointly to transfer between catchments when needed.

(17) A new power to enable future updates to a list of harmful chemicals which must be tackled to protect the aquatic environment.

New Air Quality Strategy (England)

DEFRA has today published its new Air Quality Strategy, for England (most aspects of air quality management are devolved matters). This document is here.

Scotland already has its own Air Quality Strategy, information is here. Wales and Northern Ireland are developing theirs.

The England document states :

(1) New legislation will create a stronger and more coherent framework. (This will be contained in the Environment Bill, which is not yet published save for the governance aspects).

(2) New England-wide powers will control major sources of pollution (some aspects listed below).

(3) New local powers will enable action in areas with an air pollution problem, including powers to create Clean Air Zones for all air pollution sources, in the Environment Bill, not just smoke, as exists currently (under the existing Clean Air Act).

(4) A commitment to bring all national and local monitoring data into a single online portal. Currently an online portal, with trigger alerts, exists for the London area.

(5) A commitment to publish a new target for fine particulates PM2.5, and evidence (early in 2019) on the action needed to achieve the WHO target of 10 micrograms per metre cubed. Note, the EU limit of 25 micrograms per metre cubed is met, and the second stage target of 20 micrograms per metre cubed is on target (the document states) for 2020.

(6) A commitment to provide a personal messaging system (see above comment re the London alert system).

(7) A commitment to creating a new target for reducing deposited reactive nitrogen (a target is specified).

(8) New legislation will compel manufacturers to recall non-road mobile machinery for failures in emissions control technology (this legislation is not yet published).

(9) New legislation will ban the sale of the most polluting fuels.

(10) Changes will be made to existing smoke control legislation, via the Environment Bill, to improve enforcement.

(11) Medium combustion plant emission standards will be reviewed.

(12) A National Air Pollution Control Programme will be developed with the devolved governments (as required by the EU National Emissions Ceilings Directive) for publication in 2019.

The above is a selection only, there are further commitments in the document itself.

New National Planning Policy Framework (England)

The long anticipated revision to the National Planning Policy Framework applicable in England has today (24th July) been published, here.

This replaces the 2012 Framework. The planning practice guidance to support the framework is also published online (here).

The Press Release is here.

The viability guidance is also updated – here.

UK exits EU (environmental principles & governance)

A major role carried out by the European Court is oversight of the enforcement of European Union Treaty principles embodied in EU environmental law.

The UK authorities had announced a new body would be set up to replace the role of the European Court in this respect.

This morning, the consultation document is announced for this new body (applicable to England only). This document is here. Consultation lasts until 2 August.

The new body will be established by the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill (a Brexit bill – England) that will be brought forward in the Autumn. The consultation addresses the development of this Bill.

The consultation seeks input on some of the key questions around how environmental principles should be embedded into law, public policy-making and delivery, and what functions and powers the new environmental watchdog should have to oversee environmental law and policy.  The consultation document is set out in three parts:

Part 1 – Environmental Principles

Part 2 – Accountability for the Environment

Part 3 – Overall Environmental Governance

NOTE : this post will be UPDATED when the UK authorities respond to the consultation. If you are interested in developments, please make a note to return to this post in the Blog, a separate alert will not be sent out.