The Environment Bill 2020 sets out how the government plans to protect and improve the natural environment in the UK, placing the ambition of the 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing.

John Alker, Director of Policy and Places at UKGBC said:“The reintroduction of the Environment Bill marks an important step in delivering the action we need to address the broad range of environmental challenges we face. It is encouraging to see the Government recognise the importance of action on these issues, not just making the environment once more a priority for primary legislation, but through introducing the most comprehensive legislation on the subject in a decade.

“We should not lose sight of the significant achievements of this Bill, it is far-reaching in the issues it seeks to address, and it lays the foundation for a legal framework to deliver environmental recovery.

“However, the urgency with which action is required means we cannot afford to miss opportunities. Concerns over the adequacy of current proposals on air quality and the detail of the target process; alongside the independence, powers and budget of the Office of Environmental Protection, mean UKGBC will continue to engage closely with the Government to ensure the Bill can deliver on its promise.”

The Bill will introduce measures to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats, including the policy of delivering net gain for biodiversity in new development. It also facilitates the creation of a new environmental governance framework to follow Britain’s exit from the European Union, with new legally binding targets and an enforcement body, the Office of Environmental Protection.

  • Legally binding targets will be introduced in four priority areas: air quality; waste and resource efficiency; water and nature. Environmental Improvement Plans and targets will be reviewed on a five-yearly basis.
  • Natural habitats will be supported by a national Nature Recovery Network, establishing Local Nature Recovery Strategies and giving communities a greater say in the protection of local trees.
  • A target will be introduced to reduce fine particulate matter, PM2.5, and local powers will be introduced to address sources of air pollution, enabling local authorities to work to cut harmful pollution from domestic burning.
  • The Government will also be empowered to mandate manufacturers to recall vehicles when they do not meet the relevant environmental standards and will also create powers to introduce new charges for single-use plastic items.

The Bill now includes a new commitment to review the biggest developments in environmental legislation from around the world and release a report of significant developments every two years. Findings will be factored into the UK’s Environmental Improvement Plan and environmental target setting process, both of which will be enshrined in law. This will work alongside a requirement for current and future Ministers to make a statement to Parliament identifying environmental impacts of all new environmental primary legislation.

In March last year, UKGBC coordinated a letter calling for the Bill to contain legally binding targets.


Notes to editors

The official press release is available here.

The Bill is available here.

Defra’s explanatory notes are available here.

A summary from Defra is available here.


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