UK Environment Bill Becomes Law: WWT’s Viewpoint

After three years the Environment Bill becomes law. It is the first dedicated Environment Act for over twenty years. A promise by the UK Government to guide our country towards a cleaner, and greener future and to secure nature’s protection after Brexit through the formation of “a world-leading environmental watchdog”.

WWT in partnership with other environmental charities and organisations have worked hard to include legally binding targets for nature into the Act to ensure we can hold Government to account to deliver its environmental promises.

However, although we welcome this once in a generation Environment Act, will it actually deliver what we need it to and will it help us recover nature and tackle our health and well-being crises which WWT are calling for through a “Blue Recovery”? Despite the measures included in the Environment Act the UK’s protection of the environment is weaker than those in Europe and our ability to hold the Government to account through the new “Office of Environmental Protection” is limited.

The Act has a range of positive measures including a 2030 target to halt species decline, but what matters now is how the Act is implemented. If government mean what they say then they need to invest in their promises for it to help us rescue nature and protect the environment. The Environment Act is not a stand-alone, all encompassing deliverer of environmental improvement. Legislation sits alongside supportive policy, adequate resourcing, monitoring and enforcement and at its heart political will.

For example, we need:

  • a well resourced regulatory body through the Office of Environmental Protection to ensure that environmental legislation is enforced and delivered;
  • for environmental targets to be ambitious and based on actual positive environmental results – our water bodies are currently failing to meet existing water quality targets and we need to turn the tide and deliver real improvements to our freshwater ecosystems;
  • we need the Nature Recovery Network set out in the Act to be more than just ideas on paper and resourced to see real change, including fair representation of wetland habitats;
  • and we need to ensure that Biodiversity Net Gain actually delivers benefits for nature and is not a greenwash to allow increased development.

We, along with other environmental charities and organisations, will be watching closely. This is a big step in the right direction but Government must continue to make strides and take action to deliver nature’s recovery and ensure this Act of Parliament is truly the “flagship” legislation that was promised..