Thank you to everyone who has contacted me recently about the Environment Bill.
I agree that this Bill is nowhere near bold enough to match the scale of the environmental and ecological crisis. We need a gold-standard Environment Bill with bold, swift action to cut carbon, safeguard habitats and protect declining species. As it stands, this Bill requires significant strengthening to deliver the environmental improvements needed.
I am concerned the proposed regulator is not strong enough and lacks sufficient independence from government. The Bill does not prevent us from falling behind the EU on environmental standards, which the Government’s approach to trade deals looks set to undercut. I believe that non-regression in environmental standards must be a legal requirement.
The Bill does not contain any targets on carbon emissions or duties on Ministers to ensure Britain decarbonises and stops the climate crisis getting any worse. The Government has set a deadline of 2050 to achieve net zero carbon emissions, but current projections indicate the UK will not reach this until 2099. If we are to have any hope of tackling the climate emergency, we need every government department and member of the public to take material action now.
It is vital that all targets are legally binding and set to be achieved as soon as possible. The Bill only requires the Government to set one long-term target each on air quality, water, biodiversity and waste. The Opposition attempted to amend the Bill to include a range of targets within these priority areas, but it was voted down by the Government. A loophole in the Bill means that no legal action could be taken against the Government on missed targets for nearly two decades.
While the Bill makes a start on air quality, it leaves significant discretion to Government Ministers. The Opposition tabled an amendment to the air quality target so it would meet internationally recognised World Health Organization standards. Disappointingly, it was voted down.
The Bill was being considered in Public Bill Committee, however, sittings have been suspended until further notice due to coronavirus. I can assure you I will seek to strengthen this Bill when it returns to Parliament.