On Thursday 30 January the government reintroduced its flagship Environment Bill.
The bill is largely the same as the one put forward in October 2019 (our initial reaction here), with two developments relating to standards: a requirement for the minister to make a statement to the House on the impact of environmental primary legislation; and a commitment to check on a biannual basis the most significant environmental legislation introduced in other countries.
The initial response from Ruth Chambers, Greener UK's senior parliamentary affairs associate, summarised our view: the bill has come a long way and continues to demonstrate significant government ambition, but it is still set to leave protections weaker and fall short of the government's promise of a world-leading environmental programme:
The government has shown increasingly strong ambition in tackling the environmental crisis, and should be supported for proposing legally binding targets for air and water and for its plans to restore nature.
However, there are continuing concerns that ministers will decide the green watchdog’s budget and board, with a weaker legal status for environmental principles. The proposals for how targets will be set for air quality and nature are also a pale imitation of how targets are set for climate.
Reviewing international environmental legislation every two years could be helpful, but it cannot and should not be seen as a substitute for committing in law to the high standards we already enjoy.
We have now provided a fuller briefing for MPs, alongside Wildlife and Countryside Link, ahead of the Commons second reading stage, available here.