Fundamentally inadequate and incoherent

I do not understand how we can keep on passing legislation that does not tie up. Without amendments to the Environment Bill we are at risk of seeing our seas and fisheries as being separate from the rest of our environment and all our ecological activities. This sort of silo thinking would undermine the realities of the inseparable ecosystems and natural systems. I would be particularly concerned and upset if an upland authority had a nature recovery strategy that failed to take into account what was happening to its downstream neighbours and, ultimately, to the seas where the watercourses will end up. An Environment Bill that allows for that eventuality is fundamentally inadequate and incoherent, with no basic understanding of the environment.

We need these amendments because the alternative is that in a few years’ time the Government of the day will have to bring in new legislation to try to patch up these incoherencies, with perhaps a decade of lost opportunity to heal the environment in that time. It is much better that we work together now to get it right. Continue reading “Fundamentally inadequate and incoherent”

Environment Bill Committee Stage Day 6 – Planning

I know that the Green Party’s 450 or so councillors sitting on over 140 local authorities, along with thousands of other environmentally aware councillors from other political parties, would be able to achieve a huge amount with these new powers—in particular, the ability to prohibit inappropriate activities that would be detrimental to biodiversity. Continue reading “Environment Bill Committee Stage Day 6 – Planning”

Environment Bill Committee Day 6 – Water

We currently use water in an extremely illogical way. Clean, drinkable water is flushed down the loo when there is a really obvious alternative: to not use it. The separation and capture of grey water should be routine, and the Government should make it a requirement in building regs, because the benefits are so blindingly clear.

When we combine the separation and reuse of grey water with the separation of sewage from drainage, we have a much more sustainable water system. I hope that not very long into the future we will look back on the idea of using clean water to flush our toilets and then mixing it with rainwater, before spending huge amounts of money getting the sewage back out, as illogical and disgusting. Continue reading “Environment Bill Committee Day 6 – Water”

Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill – An Animal Sentience Committee

I have tabled nine amendments to the Bill to ensure that the animal sentience committee will be a properly functioning entity that can support a meaningful improvement in recognising the sentience of animals, and what that should mean for government policy.

My first amendment, Amendment 6, starts the process of improving the committee by explicitly stating its purpose. It seems a basic drafting failure that the purpose of the committee is not laid out. It seems rather strange to have it absent from the Bill, so here I am suggesting an option. If somebody wanted a public body to achieve a purpose, I think that they would specify that purpose in the enabling legislation. My concern is that, as the Bill is currently drafted, the animal sentience committee will not be able to achieve much. We have heard Lords use particular phrases about why animal sentience is not in our legislation: somebody said it just fell out and somebody else said it was dropped by accident. To me, that is a rewriting of history, because I remember that the Government took it out deliberately. Continue reading “Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill – An Animal Sentience Committee”

Environment Bill committee Stage Day 5 – Waste water

This is one of the groups of amendments which really ought to be just swallowed wholesale by the Government. It has some excellent amendments in it.

Amendment 161 emphasises the importance of nature-based solutions and other ways of separating our sewage from the clean water that falls on the surface as rain. It is absolutely absurd that we mix these two things together, instantly turning clean rainwater into raw sewage that, as far as we are concerned, is good for nothing. There are a great many nature-based solutions for treating sewage water. 

If I had to pick one amendment as the most crucial, it would have to be Amendment 166 tabled by the Duke of Wellington, which sets the essential target of zero discharges of untreated sewage into rivers. This is the level of ambition that we should be working towards as a matter of urgency.

Continue reading “Environment Bill committee Stage Day 5 – Waste water”

Environment Bill Committee Stage Day 5 – Waste

We all know that the international waste economy is a nasty, polluting system, where the richest countries are using the poorest countries as dump sites—as giant landfill sites. Many people would be outraged to see that the recycling that they so carefully do is just baled up and dumped on poor countries and among poor communities, who then have to suffer the pollution that it causes.

I am also concerned about the increasing capacity of UK incinerators. From what I can see, the planned capacity of these incinerators will soon far exceed the amount of waste that the UK produces. Many local authorities are, of course, tied into 25-year contracts with such businesses. This means they will be looking around for waste to burn.

Continue reading “Environment Bill Committee Stage Day 5 – Waste”

Environment Bill: Plastics

The cheapest immediate option is often one of the most expensive if you look over its lifetime: cheapest is not the best. We have to look at and understand the future repercussions of everything we do. Government and Parliament have vital roles in the transition away from mass plastic. Industry, PR and lobbyists will bleat on about industry-led transition, but this is just greenwashing most of the time. For as long as you can buy bananas wrapped in plastic, you can know that the industry claims are nonsense. Parliament has to legislate, and the Government have to lead. This is one of many issues where central government absolutely must get a grip on local authority recycling services and set basic minimum standards across the country.

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My amendment 109 addressing governance gaps in environmental law

Several requirements for the Secretary of State to report information to the European Commission in relation to environmental law have been lost because of the UK’s departure from the EU and the subsequent adoption of new statutory instruments. This poses a serious threat to the effective application of environmental law in the UK and the Government’s ability to achieve their stated aim and manifesto promise of leaving the environment in a better state than that in which it was found. The reporting of information relating to environmental law is absolutely vital to ensure transparency and accountability in environmental policy-making and ensure that government and stakeholders can identify and address environmental impacts. Continuity over time in the information being recorded and reported can also help to reveal trends and increase transparency.

My Amendment 109 would introduce a new clause into the Bill that is intended to address some extensive governance gaps in environmental law that have arisen because of the UK’s departure from the EU. Continue reading “My amendment 109 addressing governance gaps in environmental law”

Animal Testing

Nowadays, there is widespread recognition that animal testing is wrong and should be avoided. The expansion and development of human society has had huge impacts on all sorts of other species. Disruption to their lifestyles has been accidental and deliberate, and has resulted in suffering, death, and even extinction. Millions of animals are still abused every year in experiments that cause great pain and suffering. This is despite significant differences between the physiology of animals and humans, which can mean these experiments are ineffective or even pointless. Hopefully, we are advanced enough to move beyond these barbaric practices and move positively forwards as stewards of the natural world. Continue reading “Animal Testing”

The Office for Environmental Protection currently lacks status, teeth, independence and accountability

It is widely recognised across the House that the office for environmental protection is not currently fit for purpose – it is too weak and easily ignored. These amendments would give it status and, more importantly, they would help to ensure the independence of the office and prevent the Government meddling. That is the sort of level of ambition that we should be setting for our environmental watchdog. Parliament is also the proper place for the OEP to be accountable to. Continue reading “The Office for Environmental Protection currently lacks status, teeth, independence and accountability”