Worcester MP Robin Walker was on the front benches of the House of Commons yesterday to support the second reading of the Government’s much anticipated Environment Bill.
Robin has long campaigned for greater action on the environment and climate change and, as the son of the first ever Secretary of State for the Environment, was particularly proud to be front and centre for the debate. When Robin was first elected as Worcester’s MP, he went to the Environment Audit Committee and put forward his suggestion of an Environment Bill.
Robin has praised the Bill as an excellent opportunity for the Government to create better and more sustainable models of operation for fisheries and farms, ensuring that the UK’s food sources are environmentally conscious. Also, the polluter pays principle, encourages recovery of nature vital to environmental protection.
This Bill will push the country closer to the realisation of the 25-year environment plan set out by this Government to press for significant action across all sections of society to meet our ambitious, long-term environmental targets.
For the first time, this Bill will enshrine environmental principles into UK law. At its core, this Bill promotes accountable polluters through financial incentives; the prevention of harm or the rectification at its source; the inclusion of environmental considerations across all Government policy and considered caution.
Robin has especially praised the decisive, evidence-based future outlook of this Bill; as the legislation aims to undo the harm that has already been done, it’s most valuable ambition is to alter structures across society to mitigate and indeed prevent further damage. Clauses 1 to 6 require the Government to set legally binding improvements in areas like resource efficiency and waste reduction, biodiversity, air quality and water.
Future Governments will be required to publish plans to meet the targets they have set, reviewing milestones every five years alongside annual progress reports. Clause 2 is especially notable outlining the duty to set legally binding for PM2.5 fine particulate matter- this pollutant has the most significant impact on human health and poor air quality is the largest environmental threat to public wellbeing.
Clauses 19 to 38 will establish the Office for Environmental Protection as a powerful new independent watchdog on the environment: providing expert independent advice to Government on environmental plans; scrutinising policy and progress; investigating if public authorities fail to live up to their commitments on the environment; and, where necessary, taking enforcement action.
This legislation will also help to crack down on waste crime and fly-tipping that costs the taxpayer over £600 million every year. Robin has discussed this with many constituents and knows the nuisance such behaviour can cause for the local community and the local environment.
This Bill will make it easier to reuse and recycle so that we build a more circular economy at home to conserve and better use our precious natural resources.
Clause 49 grants the power to set up a deposit return scheme for products such as drinks containers and clause 50 enables the plastic bag charge to be extended to other items—the charge has seen bag use dropped by 90% since its introduction. We believe that these provisions will be widely welcomed by many who want concerted action to tackle the tragedy of plastic pollution.
Robin has further welcomed the international outlook of this Bill, not only does it move to secure nature and climate at the centre of decision making, it pushes for a global Britain by doubling international climate finance funding and seeks to invest £220 million to protect international biodiversity.
Speaking after the second reading, Robin said:
“I am proud of the work that the Conservative Government has done to address environmental concerns and climate change. The Environment Bill is a landmark piece of legislation, it enshrines environmental principles in law requiring this Government and their successors to set demanding and legally binding targets as well as creating a world-leading, independent environmental watchdog to hold them to account.”
“As a Minister in both Northern Ireland and Scotland offices, I would like to thank the devolved administrations for working with us on this Bill, a unified and comprehensive approach is the only way to ensure sustainable, long term change across our United Kingdom.”
“Along with our pledge to achieve net zero by 2050, this legislation it is crucial to ensure we protect our planet for future generations. I believe that the UK can lead global ambition for international targets on climate, ocean and biodiversity.”