Post-Brexit protection: anticipating the Environment Bill 

Energy & Climate Change, Management & Regulation, Natural Environment

Post-Brexit protection: anticipating the Environment Bill 

Photograph of a kingfisher

Brexit day is, potentially, fast approaching and despite the years of preparation leading up to the UK’s departure from the European Union, plenty of risks remain with many having increased.

Greener UK recently updated its’ Brexit risk tracker to reflect the risk of regulatory deterioration as high across all eight monitored policy areas. A change brought about by a combination of factors, from the PM’s suggestion that the UK may diverge from EU standards post-Brexit, to delays to key Bills and the enduring possibility of a no-deal exit.

Overall, and in the face of a climate and ecological emergency, the current picture of our post-Brexit reality looks set to be a bleak one of low taxes and low regulation where the economic system takes precedent over the ecosystem.

However, there is still some time and following the Queen’s Speech on Monday we hope to see the delayed Environment Bill laid shortly.

A strong Environment Bill is imperative for protecting the environment post-Brexit and supporting delivery of the government’s landmark 25 Year Environment Plan, including their commitment to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than it inherited it.

To give effective protection, we desperately need the Environment Bill to deliver a strong independent watchdog with teeth and provide a firm footing for environmental principles.

If it’s to help deliver the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Bill needs to put it on a statutory footing. Alongside which we’d also like to see provision for updating the 2006 NERC Act to include a duty on all public bodies to consider and enhance the environment in their actions.

Of course, that alone won’t ensure delivery of the 25 Year Environment Plan ambitions. Our new report 25 Year Environment Plan: ambition to realisation shows that the challenge to deliver environmental recovery and leave the environment in a better state than inherited is a great and complex one. It requires action right across government and will require a plethora of bodies to deliver against it.

There are many examples of great work being undertaken by a range of different bodies, both public and across wider society. But to deliver such achievements at the scale required will require extensive collaboration to share knowledge, experience and make the most of funding streams.

Against a backdrop of national division, polarised politics and crippling uncertainty, what is desperately needed to transform the 25 Year Environment Plan from words to reality is collaboration at a national scale, increased certainty so delivery bodies can plan and work effectively and robust scrutiny so performance can be monitored. Without these fundamentals, the Plan is doomed to failure.

In our report, we make six recommendations the Government should act on to deliver their plan. In brief, these are to:

1. Update delivery bodies objectives to reflect the plan’s priorities, underpinned by a statutory duty on public bodies to consider and enhance the environment

2. Facilitate a systems approach to delivery through improved collaboration

3. Require consistent annual reporting across all delivery bodies for better transparency

4. Support development of skills needed to take forward elements of the plan

5. Review current government funding to address issues on amount and security, and

6. Support development of innovative private funding routes.

Overall to deliver for the environment it’s crucial that we secure legal support for its protection and restoration, to reverse the shocking biodiversity declines we are witnessing and provide climate resilience. The Environment Bill must set the tone for a strong approach in what otherwise looks an uncertain future.

Sarah Anderton and Alastair Chisholm


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