Last reviewed 5 November 2019

The Government’s landmark Environment Bill has passed second reading unopposed by MPs and will now progress to Committee stage. The Bill sets out environmental principles in law and introduces measures to improve air and water quality, tackle pollution and better manage waste.

The legislation, which has moved a step closer to becoming law following its second reading by MPs will also establish legally binding environmental improvement targets. A new independent Office for Environmental Protection will be created to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities, if necessary, to uphold environmental standards. The Office’s powers will cover all climate change legislation and hold the Government to account on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

In particular, the proposed Bill aims to ensure the environment is at the heart of all government policy making and that this government — and future governments — are held to account if they fail to uphold their environmental duties.

Opening the second reading, Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “This is a truly landmark piece of legislation, enshrining environmental principles in law, requiring this government and its successors to demanding and legally binding targets and creating a world-leading environmental watchdog to hold them to account.”

However, while MPs expressed support for the Bill, concerns were raised about the Office for Environmental Protection’s independence and funding, as well as how the targets system will work. Air quality, water and plastics were also discussed.

The Bill now progress to the Committee stage for further scrutiny and onto the next stages of the Parliamentary process for becoming law.