Addressing the United Nations recently, Boris Johnson dismissed Kermit the Frog’s statement that ‘It’s not easy being green’. The Environment Bill, the most important green legislation in the UK for decades, has had a difficult passage through Parliament. First announced in mid-2018 and introduced to Parliament in October 2019, the Bill has now been through both Houses and should receive royal assent shortly after COP26.
This will be an important piece of legislation for the local government sector. There are four key areas within the Bill, with at least one new binding target to be set by 31 October 2022 in relation to each of the following:
1) Air quality: Councils and other relevant public bodies nominated as ‘air quality partners’ will have a duty to share responsibility for dealing with air pollution and an annual mean target for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) will be set.
2) Biodiversity: A requirement to increase biodiversity net gain in the planning process will be introduced. Options under consideration include the condition of sites of special scientific interest and marine protected areas.
3) Water: measures will be introduced to support new and existing internal drainage boards which manage water levels and flood risks. There will be targets to reduce both the demand on water usage, and pollution from agriculture and wastewater.
4) Waste and resource efficiency: consultations have taken place on deposit return schemes for drinks containers and extended producer responsibility. All waste collection authorities will be required to offer food waste collection services (fully funded by government) and to collect a consistent set of kerbside materials.
The new regulatory body, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), will investigate complaints on alleged serious breaches of environmental law by public authorities, including councils. Debate continues about whether the OEP will be strong enough to hold government to account.
Local Partnerships works with local and combined authorities on environmental projects covering air quality, climate change, waste and more. We manage the Re:fit framework which helps public bodies to procure environmentally beneficial solutions. It might not all be easy, but we stand ready to support the public sector implement the changes required by the Environment Bill.
This article is sponsored content for The MJ