Last reviewed 18 November 2020

The Government’s landmark Environment Bill has returned to Parliament after a pause due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Bill sets out environmental principles in law and introduces measures to improve air and water quality, tackle pollution and better manage waste.

It includes a commitment to a bi-annual review of the significant developments in international legislation on the environment to ensure the UK keeps abreast of developments in driving forward environmental protection legislation.

Legally-binding targets will be introduced for air quality, nature, water and resource efficiency and waste efficiency.

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.

Ahead of the Environment Bill’s return, a number of amendments have been tabled by the Government for consideration. These clarify how the OEP should exercise its enforcement powers so as to leave no doubt about its thresholds for action, and to protect its confidence and ability to focus on the most serious cases whilst maintaining its crucial independence.

Other amendments would enable the creation of Species Conservation Strategies and Protected Site Strategies to deal with the complex challenge of protecting and restoring species and habitats at risk, while also enabling much needed development.

Reintroducing the Environment Bill back to Parliament, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: ”The Environment Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation for a generation, and it’s essential that we complete its passage into law as soon as possible so that we can continue our work to transform society and improve our air, water and nature.”