The Environment Act has officially passed into UK law, marking a crucial step forward for protecting and restoring the UK's habitats, increasing biodiversity, setting parameters for water quality and more.
Read the background to the Environnment Bill that came before it here.
Environment secretary George Eustice hailed the Act as delivering "the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth" and as a piece of legislation that will set "an example for the rest of the world to follow".
He went on to assert that the Act "will halt the decline of species by 2030, clean up our air and protect the health of our rivers, reform the way in which we deal with waste and tackle deforestation overseas."
Many will be looking to see how the Act will bring water companies into line, given the recent revelations and continued furore over sewage pollution.
The government has made assurances that the Act will 'crack down' on water companies that discharge sewage into rivers, waterways and coastlines. There will also be a requirement for government to publish a plan to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows by September 2022, and report progress to parliament.
On the above Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd CBE said: "The new legal targets for water in the Environment Act today will help wider efforts to tackle pollution, reduce demand for water and secure clean and plentiful water for all."
Among the areas that the Act will deliver on include:
- Drainage and sewerage management planning a statutory duty
- Minimise damage water abstraction may cause on environment
- Biodiversity net gain to ensure developments deliver at least 10 per cent increase in biodiversity
- Prohibit larger UK businesses from using commodities associated with wide-scale deforestation
- Require local authorities to tackle air quality
- Simplify enforcement within smoke control areas
Waste & recycling
- A deposit Return Scheme for single use drinks containers
- Ban or restrict export of waste to non-OECD countries