The Government has pledged that we will be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than that in which we inherited it. To this end the Government has published the 25 Year Environment Plan (YEP) for England and is now developing an Environmental Principles and Governance Bill to help deliver the vision of the 25 YEP and ensure our country is a world leader in environmental protection once we leave the EU.
Objectives of the consultation
The development of an Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will mark the creation of a new, world-leading, statutory and independent environmental watchdog to hold the Government to account on its environmental ambitions and obligations after the EU exit. This new body will work alongside a new policy statement setting out the environmental principles that will guide successful and sustainable policy-making, marking the beginning of a new era for our environment.
This consultation addressed some of the key questions around how environmental principles should be embedded into law, public policy-making and delivery, and what functions and powers the new environmental watchdog should have to oversee environmental law and policy.
The consultation concluded on 2 August 2018 and the Government aims to publish a draft Environmental Principles and Governance Bill in the autumn of 2018, with the introduction of a Bill early in the second session of this Parliament.
To download the consultation document, please follow the link below.
CIBSE welcomes this consultation and the opportunity to contribute to shaping the UK’s future environmental framework.
CIBSE believes that the consultation proposals fall short of the public promises committing the government to replacing the current arrangements for the UK as part of the EU, especially in terms of governance.
The consultation proposes that the upcoming environmental Bill and governance body would only apply in England. CIBSE notes the intention to seek collaboration with the other nations of the UK, however this is a statement of intent only. CIBSE believes strongly that environmental governance should be developed at a UK level. The Climate Change Act and associated Committee on Climate Change (CCC) are an example of this being achieved since devolution and delivering effective UK-wide advice and oversight. A UK wide environmental arrangement should provide the minimum common ground, with each nation free to implement higher standards or more extensive governance should they wish to, as happens with climate change measures.
CIBSE thinks that the proposed Environment Act should require all public authorities to have special regard to the environmental principles and act in accordance with the policy statement. This would make legislation more effective and less open to interpretation. It would also more clearly deliver the promises made by various members of the current government to maintain levels of environmental protection after the UK leaves the EU. A statutory commitment to do so would also increase certainty in business and commerce around future environmental standards, which in turn will have a positive impact on business planning.
The consultation states that the “new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill is designed to create a new, world-leading, independent environmental watchdog to hold government to account on our environmental ambitions and obligations once we have left the EU”. CIBSE strongly supports the creation of such a body. However, whilst the consultation contains this headline statement, the more detailed proposals fall short of what is required to genuinely hold government to account.
They also fall significantly short of the requirement of Section 16 (1) c) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, which requires government to bring forward, by mid January 2019, “provisions for the establishment of a public authority with functions for taking, in circumstances provided for by or under the Bill, proportionate enforcement action (including legal proceedings if necessary) where the authority considers that a Minister of the Crown is not complying with environmental law (as it is defined in the Bill)”.
To read the full CIBSE response, please follow the link below.