Tomorrow is a crucial day in the House of Lords for environmentalists. I shall be backing an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to ensure that the government’s promised new enforcement agency will not reduce any of “the rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and proceedures that contribute to the protection and improvement of the environment.”
The amendment also outlines a timetable for consulting upon and establishing this independent new body, along with appointing its chair and funding it.
We need a UK enforcement agency (with arrangements agreed by the devolved administrations) that is capable of taking over the role of the European Commission. The government’s proposal, which they published ahead of this Lords’ debate, fails several of the crucial tests, but they are hoping it will be enough to avoid another defeat.
According to the government’s bill, the new body will not be able to initiate legal action and will have no legal obligation to operate the current environmental principles such as the precautionary principle and polluter pays. By contrast, the amendment lays out all of the existing environmental principles, including animal sentience.
For Greens, this could become the most positive vote the Lords has taken. The amendment is just one step on the way towards creating a world-leading environmental enforcement agency that will protect our food and animal welfare standards.