The environment secretary George Eustice said today (23 September) any targets set under the Environment Bill framework would retain a “holistic ethos” between policy areas.
The government is to set legally binding targets under its Environment Bill by 31 October 2022 to help the country “build back greener” (see letsrecycle.com story).
At least one long-term target with a minimum duration of 15 years will be introduced in each of four priority areas – air quality, resources and waste, biodiversity and water.
Mr Eustice noted the close relationship between policies tackling waste and those tackling air quality.
He said: “It will be essential that the policy tools we use to deliver these important targets we set must retain a holistic ethos.
“It must acknowledge the complex interactions in our environment and the interconnections between the targets we set.
“Our aim really, through these targets that we’re setting, is to ensure that we can move beyond a process of trying to prevent sites and prevent decline in wildlife, to reversing those trends.”
Mr Eustice said that rather than setting a single target for each of the four policy areas, the government would probably set several in each one. In doing so it would ensure it did not miss things, he said.
Coherent targets would help to guide consistent policies even though governments may come and go, he said.
Mr Eustice was speaking via a pre-recorded message at a webinar devoted to discussing the targets that could be set under the Environment Bill. It was organised by the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).
Also speaking at the webinar was Stuart Hayward-Higham, technical development director at Suez Recycling & Recovery UK. He reiterated Mr Eustice’s call for a holistic approach to targets, saying they required transition plans relating to all four policy areas.
“You need to break those targets down to bite-size chunks”
He said: “Each component of the Environment Bill needs its own transition plan, but then you need holistic transition plans that bring those different parts together and go, ‘ok, if I’m going to do biodiversity, what elements or what different parts of the systems contribute to biodiversity or contributed to resource productivity?’
“Long-term targets and strong targets give a foundation of investible conditions.”
However, he added more specific targets made long-term goals more achievable.
He said: “You need to break those targets down to bite-size chunks, so I think also having national targets broken down so that we as a sector or companies or local authorities know what they need to do.”
Other speakers on the panel included Shirley Rodrigues, deputy mayor for environment and energy at the Greater London Authority, and Tom Walker, director of environment strategy at Defra, amongst others.