Thank for contacting me regarding the Environment Bill.
I was pleased to speak in the report stage debate of the Bill. You can find my contribution via the link below:
The Environment Bill will place environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of Government. I am pleased that legislative measures will be introduced to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age, ensuring we can deliver on the commitment to leave the natural world in a better condition than we found it. These will include meeting net-zero by 2050, as well as wider long-term legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality, water, and resource and waste efficiency which will be established under the Bill.
Unfortunately, there is tremendous pressure on the legislative timetable as a result of Covid-related business and the social distancing measures in force in Parliament. This means there is insufficient time left to properly debate the Environment Bill.
Trying to continue with the original timetable would have risked the bill falling and having to return to square one of the parliamentary process. Whilst this is naturally disappointing, I know the Government will continue the necessary work on the Bill and remain fully committed to its implementation when it returns in the next session of Parliament later in the year.
This does not diminish the ambition for our environment in any way, with Report Stage recommencing early in the Second Session and Royal Assent expected in the Autumn. Key work on implementing the Bill’s measures will continue at pace, including establishing the Office for Environmental Protection, setting long-term legally binding targets for environmental protection and creating a new Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers.
The Environment Bill requires that Statutory Instruments setting out environmental targets must be laid before parliament by 31 October 2022. Ministers will continue to develop targets through a robust, evidence-led process to meet this deadline. Long-term targets will be developed through a robust evidence-led process, and Ministers shall not prejudge where this will take them. Ministers have also committed that their proposed objectives for biodiversity targets include restoring species populations and priority habitats, which will improve the state of nature. By setting targets of at least 15 years, Ministers will ensure that Governments look beyond the short term, but this does not mean we should not make progress until 2030. I am confident that the process put in place to develop targets will contribute to meeting new global goals set under the convention on biological diversity.
The UK is committed to playing a leading role in developing an ambitious and transformative post-2020 framework for global biodiversity under the convention on biological diversity. Following agreement of this framework, Ministers will publish a new strategy for nature in England that will outline how they will implement the convention on biological diversity’s new global targets domestically and meet the 25-year environmental goals for nature at the same time.
I recognise the importance of setting legally binding targets to support these ambitions, so I am pleased that the Environment Bill includes a requirement to set at least one long-term, legally binding target in relation to biodiversity, as well as targets for air quality, water and resource efficiency, and waste reduction. I know that the Government will determine the specific areas in which targets will be set using the robust and transparent target-setting, monitoring and reporting process that the Bill legislates for, and will seek advice from independent experts. I am pleased that both Parliament and the public will have the opportunity to provide input to the development of these targets.