Last reviewed 13 May 2022

The Government has published a new legally binding policy statement that puts environmental protection at the heart of all policymaking.

The draft Environmental Policy Statement follows public consultation which stressed the importance of embedding environmental principles in new policies right from the outset, with more clarity on opportunities for enhancing the environment rather than damaging it.

Defra will support other Government departments in understanding how to apply the new rules in future policymaking. Environment minister Rebecca Pow said the new Environmental Principles Statement “will ensure we put the environment at the heart of the Government’s work across Whitehall”.

“Ministers will have a duty under the Environment Act to consider opportunities to protect and enhance the environment, ensuring that we leave it in a better state for future generations,” she added.

There are five internationally recognised environmental principles that ministers across all departments will be required to consider when developing new policy initiatives.

  • The integration principle — policymakers should look for opportunities to embed environmental protection in other fields of policy that have impacts on the environment.

  • The prevention principle — Government policy should aim to prevent environmental harm.

  • The rectification at source principle — any environmental damage should, as a priority, be addressed at its origin to avoid the need to remedy its effects later.

  • The polluter pays principle — those who cause environmental damage should be responsible for mitigation or compensation.

  • The precautionary principle — where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Defra is also planning to provide workshops and training to other Government departments and is aiming to incorporate the principles into existing Government policy guidance documents, such as the Treasury’s Green Book.