The Government’s long awaited 25 year strategy for saving the environment will make very little impact on decisions made in the Treasury or other Ministries, unless there is hard law to make sure it all happens.
With the UK government already in breach of many of its environmental commitments, environmental campaigners are increasingly reaching for the law in order to make change happen. Client Earth have taken the Government to court over air pollution, and won three times. It’s taken repeated legal threats from the EU for the Government to do anything about cleaning up our polluted rivers.
The enforcement of environmental laws in the UK is in jeopardy if the government is either allowed to push through EU Withdrawal Bill without substantial amendment, or it fails to fast-track the creation of new enforcement agencies. This post Brexit enforcement gap undermines any of the fine words in the 25 year strategy, which is why I’m looking forward to seeing the government’s ideas on the creation of an independent Environment Agency. Some of my own ideas, such as the Citizens Commission, are set out in my draft Clean Air Bill.
DEFRA have said that they will “legislate when needed”. Well legislation is needed now! But the Government’s intention seems to be to just legislate in little dribs and drabs – the odd Bill here, and statutory instrument there. The new enforcement structures and processes must be in place before we leave the EU.
What this Plan proves is that environmental policies which were once seen as radical, pie in the sky thinking are now in the mainstream. I welcome that development.
It is a simple fact that we only have this one planet between us, so we need to treat it well.