Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about various aspects of the Environment Bill.
I agree we need a gold-standard Environment Bill with bold, swift action to cut carbon, safeguard habitats and protect declining species. However, at present, the Bill is nowhere near bold enough to match the scale of the environmental and ecological crisis that we are facing. I am also concerned that the environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, lacks independence and that the UK Government has actively weakened its powers and scope.
I will be supporting strong and effective Opposition amendments at Report Stage to improve this Bill and deliver the policies that will preserve our planet and protect our environment, including on environmental principles and commitments, air quality, a tree strategy, the waste hierarchy and habitat net gain.
The link between coronavirus deaths and air quality means that action to improve our air is more critical than ever. I support setting a clear and coherent target in the Bill in line with internationally recognised World Health Organization guidelines on air quality.
Tree planting has an important role to play in reaching net zero emissions through locking in carbon. Yet, the UK has some of the lowest forest cover in Europe. I believe the UK Government should be required to publish a tree strategy for England and produce targets for the protection, restoration and expansion of trees and woodland.
This once-in-a-lifetime Bill must show real ambition and deliver on restoring our natural environment. I can assure you that I will seek to strengthen measures in the Bill at its Report Stage debate on 26 January.