The government will set legally binding targets under its Environment Bill to help the country “build back greener”, it said today (19 August).
Potential targets relating to resource efficiency and waste reduction will look to increase resource productivity and reduce the volume of residual waste and plastic pollution generated in England.
Environment secretary George Eustice said: “The targets we set under our landmark Environment Bill will be the driving force behind our bold action to protect and enhance our natural world – guaranteeing real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today.
“I hope these targets will provide some much-needed certainty to businesses and society, as we work together to build back better and greener.”
The government says it will introduce at least one long-term target with a minimum duration of 15 years in each of four priority areas – air quality, resources and waste, biodiversity and water.
These targets are to be brought forward by 31 October 2022.
Further priority areas and targets may be introduced at a later date to ensure the government continues to tackle the most pressing or newly emerging issues.
Long-term targets will be supported by interim targets to ensure the government stays on track. These will set out its five-year trajectory, and the government will report annually on its progress.
Defra says targets relating to resource efficiency and waste reduction developed under the Environment Bill framework will be set at an England level and will not directly pose requirements onto local authorities or any other institutions or organisations.
The Resources and Waste Strategy for England re-affirmed commitments to double resource productivity by 2050, Defra says. Any subsequent target setting process will review the level of this ambition based on evidence to establish what a legislative target could be.
Early interim targets for residual waste would be based on implementation of existing policy commitments including improving consistent municipal recycling collections utilising powers in the Environment Bill, Defra says.
The government’s long-term targets are to relate to the natural environment or people’s enjoyment of it.
To set the targets, which will also apply to any future governments, Defra says it will use a robust, evidence-led process in collaboration with independent experts and stakeholders to ensure they are strong, meaningful and environmental-outcome-focused.
The targets will have a clearly defined level or quality standard to be achieved which can be objectively measured and a specific date for achieving each target, the government says.
To hold the government to account, the new environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), will also report annually on the progress that has been made in improving the natural environment in accordance with these targets. Defra began the recruitment process for the inaugural chair of the OEP on 10 August (see letsrecycle.com story).
Once proposed targets are developed, businesses, communities and civil society will have an opportunity to share their views in response to a public consultation, expected in early 2022.
Criteria for the setting of targets can be read here.
Defra says the Environment Bill will resume its passage through parliament as soon as possible.
The Environment Bill creates a new statutory cycle of monitoring, planning and reporting, including a long-term Environmental Improvement Plan. The 25 Year Environment Plan will be the first of these.
The introduction of the 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).