10 August 2020 by James Langley

Defra seeks chair for environmental watchdog

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has begun the recruitment process for the inaugural chair of the Office for Environmental Protection today, 10 August.

The successful candidate will be the driving force behind this new green governance body, Defra says, which will independently scrutinise and advise the government to ensure it sets and meets ambitious targets to improve the environment.

Subject to the environment bill gaining royal assent, the Office for Environmental Protection is scheduled for creation in 2021

It will also have the power to run its own independent investigations and enforce environmental law.

Environment secretary George Eustice said: “Protecting and enhancing our natural environment is a greater priority than ever before, so it is essential both present and future governments are held to account on our environmental targets.

“This new and independent body needs a strong leader who has the passion and commitment needed to deliver real and lasting change for our precious environment, and I encourage all those who fit the bill to apply.”

Applications

The successful candidate will be based in Bristol, required to work two days a week and paid £56,784 a year. The job advert can be read here. Applications must be submitted by midday on 8 September.

“This new and independent body needs a strong leader”

Environment secretary George Eustice

Applications are to be assessed by a panel including Tamara Finkelstein, permanent secretary at Defra, Lord Kakkar, a crossbench peer and professor of surgery at University College London, and Dame Fiona Reynolds, master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Subject to the environment bill gaining royal assent, the watchdog is scheduled for creation in 2021.

Europe

The Office for Environmental Protection will monitor the government’s progress towards improving the natural environment and will investigate complaints regarding failures of public bodies to comply with environmental law.

The new regulator is needed in light of the UK’s departure from the European Union. Previously the European Commission would have taken action against the UK if, for example, it had failed to achieve statutory EU recycling targets. In future this task will sit with the Office for Environmental Protection.

The Queen announced the regulator was to be established during her speech to parliament in October 2019 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Environment bill

The body is be legislated for through the environment bill, which is currently passing through parliament.

The Queen announced the regulator was to be established during her speech to parliament in October 2019

The introduction of the environment bill followed the UK’s departure from the European Union, which brought in the Waste Framework Directive from which much of the UK’s waste legislation derives.

Defra says it will transform how resources and waste are managed in the UK, and the bill gives ministers the relevant powers to make changes to legislation.

It passed its second reading at the House of Commons on 26 February without opposition from the Labour Party, despite shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard expressing concerns the bill was not comprehensive enough (see letsrecycle.com story).

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