Last reviewed 18 November 2021

The new Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) has been legally formed this week following the passing of the Environment Act 2021 by Parliament the week prior. 

17 November 2021 marks a significant step forward towards the OEP becoming a fully operational and independent organisation, with new powers to hold government and public authorities to account over their duties to fulfil obligations and commitments in environmental law.

The new “green watchdog” has until now been operating as the interim OEP and was able to register complaints about the failures of public authorities but without powers to undertake investigations or issue enforcement notices.

Speaking earlier on the updated status of the OEP, Dame Glenys Chair of the OEP said: “I am delighted that the Act creates the independent Office for Environmental Protection and gives us the tools for our job. We are well underway with establishing a functionally independent, fully operational OEP from early in the new year. There has never been a more crucial time for us all to work to protect and improve our environment. The OEP will play its full part.”

Even at this stage, Parliament still needs to take the next step for the green watchdog to become fully functioning and for those new powers, enshrined in law, to be made available. 

When fully established, the OEP will have powers to review and report on government’s progress in meeting environmental goals and targets, and monitor and report on the implementation of environmental law. It will also be able to advise government on proposed changes to the law and other environmental matters and investigate suspected failures to comply with environmental law by government and other public bodies, with powers to enforce compliance where needed.

In a statement, the OEP stated that it will begin the transition to an independent entity in early 2022 and will work on fleshing out its strategic approach to managing complaints and holding public bodies to account over the coming weeks.

The public can now make a complaint to the OEP where they suspect that the Government or a public authority has failed to comply with environmental law.

Full details of the OEP and how it works are now available here.