Statutory Environmental Targets (UK)

The Environment Act 2021 introduced a system of environmental governance based on statutory environmental principles and long-term environmental targets, and an Environmental Improvement Plan, all supported by an independent Office for Environmental Protection (operating in England and separately in Northern Ireland). Scotland does not have an OEP, it has set up a separate body under different legislation. Wales has no OEP.

Statutory targets were due (by law) by 31st October, but this deadline has been missed. The first review of the Environmental Improvement Plan is required by 31 Jan 2023. The current Environmental Improvement Plan is dated 2018 and the latest annual report on it is here. Annual reports are required by section 9 of the Environment Act 2021. Environment targets are governed by sections 1 to 7 of the Act. Section 10 stipulates reviews of the Environmental Improvement Plan.

In March 2022, the government announced a consultation on the targets. It closed on 27th June. The outcome of this consultation is not announced, nor are the statutory targets.

DEFRA responded to the OEP that it is committed to the target of halting species decline by 2030 which is included on the face of the Environment Act, and to bring forward the wider suite of targets specified under the Act.

The OEP is pressing for publication of the targets – here is their latest letter to DEFRA.

Included in the OEP’s letter to DEFRA is a non-exhaustive list of other statutory deadlines which appear to have been missed.

Environment Bill (England & UK Brexit)

The Environment Bill returns to the Commons for Second Reading today. It is a slightly different Bill to 2019. Please reprise the posts I wrote in 2019, I summarise the changes (from those posts) below – I had got as far as Water – please find those posts in the Environment Bill category on this blog.

Targets (unchanged from 2019 Bill) – reprising because I didn’t set these out before – England only (targets are within the competencies of devolved legislatures)

– allow government to set long-term targets (of at least 15 years duration) in relation to the natural environment and people’s enjoyment of the natural environment via statutory instrument;

– require government to meet long-term targets, and to prepare remedial plans where long-term targets are not met;

– require government to set, by October 2022, at least one long-term target in each of the priority areas of air quality, water, biodiversity, and resource efficiency and waste reduction;

– require government to set and meet an air quality target for fine particulate matter in ambient air (PM2.5);

– require government to periodically review all environmental targets to assess whether meeting them would significantly improve the natural environment in England.

Note Clause 20 – Clause 20: Reports on international environmental protection legislation (this is unchanged from 2019 Bill, but I did not spell it out before) – this clause places an obligation on the Secretary of State to produce a report on significant developments in international environmental protection legislation, every two years, and lay it before Parliament. England only (competencies are within the competencies of devolved legislatures).

The scope and content of the report will be determined by the Secretary of State – see subsection (5). However, in a given reporting period it could cover: significant developments in the legislation of other countries that are mainly concerned with seeking to protect the natural environment from the effects of human activity or protecting people from the effects of human activity on the environment; legislation on the maintenance, restoration or enhancement of the natural environment; or legislative provisions around monitoring, assessing, considering and reporting and monitoring on these matters. The report will not extend to reviewing or considering the planning systems of other countries.

OEP (Office for Environmental Protection) – unchanged from 2019 Bill – see Blog posts on this – England only (establishing an OEP is within the competencies of devolved legislatures – Scotland indicated it would go this direction see its Environmental Strategy – see my post of yesterday).

Changes to UK REACH – unchanged from 2019 Bill

Waste, Air and Water appear unchanged from the 2019 Bill, and I have Blog posted before about these topics. Nonetheless, I will Blog again re Waste, because this is highly complex and a lot of new processes are announced. Please read the Explanatory Notes – here.

New Blog posts will be made about the rest of the Bill, please look out for those.