The Environment Bill will return to Parliament today (30 January) with the government promising that the “ground-breaking bill” will enshrine environmental principles in law.
The Bill gives government the power to introduce environmental legislation, such as that set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy. Consultations setting out the specifics are set to take place later this year.
There will be two new ‘enhanced’ aspects of proposed legislation compared to the Bill which passed second reading stage in the last Parliament; today’s Bill includes a power enabling the government to ban or restrict the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries, as well as a two-yearly review of the “significant developments in international legislation”.
Environment secretary Theresa Villiers said: “We are facing climate change and our precious natural environment is under threat. We need to take decisive action.
“We have set out our pitch to be a world leader on the environment as we leave the EU and the Environment Bill is a crucial part of achieving this aim. It sets a gold standard for improving air quality, protecting nature, increasing recycling and cutting down on plastic waste.
“This will build on the UK’s strong track record as the first major economy to commit to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and will drive further action in this super year for the environment, culminating in the UK welcoming the world to the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in November in Glasgow.”
Defra said in a statement that the “speedy return” of the Bill to Parliament following the General Election “underlines the government’s commitment “to tackling climate change and to protecting and restoring the natural environment for future generations.
Defra also released the video below on social media explaining more about the Bill.
Defra stated that it will transform the way waste is managed in England through powers that enable the government to require producers to take more responsibility for the products and materials they place on the market, including when they become waste.
The department added that it will be introducing a consistent approach to recycling, tackling waste crime, creating powers to introduce bottle deposit return schemes and having more effective litter enforcement.
A Defra spokesperson said: “A power to stop the export of polluting plastic waste to less developed countries will ensure we deal with more of our waste at home and lighten our footprint on the planet. We will consult with industry, NGOs, and local authorities on specific restrictions or prohibitions.”
The Bill will also create powers to introduce new charges for single use plastic items to minimise their use and incentivising reusable alternatives to reduce their environmental impact, as outlined in the Resources and Waste Strategy.
The government also pledged today that the bill will ensure the environment is at the heart of all government policy making and that this government – and future governments – are held to account if they fail to uphold their environmental duties.
And, as announced for the first time today, the government will conduct a review every two years of significant developments in international legislation on the environment to ensure it “keeps abreast of developments in driving forward our environmental protection legislation”.
The review will be publicly available and “ensure its findings are factored into our Environmental Improvement Plan and environmental target setting process”, both of which will be enshrined in law.