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Environment Act becomes law

Legislation, the Environment Act, that will protect and enhance our environment for future generations has now passed into UK law.

It will halt the decline in species by 2030, require new developments to improve or create habitats for nature, and tackle deforestation overseas.

It aims to help us transition to a more circular economy, incentivising people to recycle more, encouraging businesses to create sustainable packaging, making household recycling easier and stopping the export of polluting plastic waste to developing countries.

These changes will be driven by new legally binding environmental targets, and enforced by a new, independent Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) which will hold government and public bodies to account on their environmental obligations.

The Environment Act includes a new legally binding target on species abundance for 2030, which will help to reverse declines of iconic British species like the hedgehog, red squirrel and water vole.

The UK will now be able to go further than ever before to clamp down on illegal deforestation and protect rainforests, through a package of measures will ensure that greater resilience, traceability and sustainability are built into the UK’s supply chains.

The Act will crack down on water companies that discharge sewage into rivers, waterways and coastlines. It will see a duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows. New duties will also require the government to publish a plan to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows by September 2022 and report to Parliament on the progress towards implementing the plan.

The Office for Environmental Protection was set up in an interim, non-statutory form in July, providing independent oversight of the Government’s environmental progress and accelerating the foundation of the full body. The OEP will formally commence its statutory functions shortly.

The Environment Act will deliver:

  • Long-term targets to improve air quality, biodiversity, water, and waste reduction and resource efficiency
  • A target on ambient PM2.5 concentrations, the most harmful pollutant to human health
  • A target to halt the decline of nature by 2030
  • Environmental Improvement Plans, including interim targets
  • A cycle of environmental monitoring and reporting
  • Environmental Principles embedded in domestic policy making
  • Office for Environmental Protection to uphold environmental law

NATURE

  • Strengthened biodiversity duty
  • Biodiversity net gain to ensure developments deliver at least 10% increase in biodiversity
  • Local Nature Recovery Strategies to support a Nature Recovery Network
  • Duty upon Local Authorities to consult on street tree felling
  • Strengthen woodland protection enforcement measures
  • Conservation Covenants
  • Protected Site Strategies and Species Conservation Strategies to support the design and delivery of strategic approaches to deliver better outcomes for nature
  • Prohibit larger UK businesses from using commodities associated with wide-scale deforestation
  • Requires regulated businesses to establish a system of due diligence for each regulated commodity used in their supply chain, requires regulated businesses to report on their due diligence, introduces a due diligence enforcement system
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