The Government’s Environment Bill, designed to replace some EU laws that will no longer apply to the UK, will set the direction for future environmental protection and improvement.
The Bill includes proposals to require legally binding targets and plans on biodiversity, air and water quality and waste reduction and allows the Government to set targets for people’s enjoyment of the natural environment. It also includes proposals for long-term Environmental Improvement Plans and would establish a new environmental watchdog, independent of government.
We welcome efforts to improve the quality of the environment. Wherever we walk, experiencing richer, cleaner, more biodiverse environments is good thing. However, the Bill misses a unique opportunity to better connect people to nature – critical in fostering a sense of belonging to, and responsibility for, the places where we live, work and play. The Bill must be strengthened to require legally binding long-term targets to increase people’s engagement with and access to the natural environment.
The Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted just how important it is for everyone to have easy access to nature. Millions have benefitted from the simple, free yet invaluable act of walking in green spaces close to their homes. However, the restrictions have also highlighted that for many people, this is simply not possible – easy access to nature is far from guaranteed.
The Bill must be strengthened to require legally binding long-term targets and plans to increase people’s access to, and enjoyment of, the natural environment. Fortunately, two amendments have been tabled which, if passed, would deliver this ambition.
In the run up to publication of the Environment Bill we championed the need to ensure that engagement with the natural environment should be a priority area for which long-term targets and plans must be set.
During its Report Stage debate in the House of Commons on 26 January, two amendments were debated by MPs which would have addressed our concerns. While these received the support of some MPs, without Government backing it wasn’t enough to change the legislation. The Bill has now received its Third Reading in the House of Commons.
The Government still has time to show leadership and commit to ensuring that everyone can access nature. The Bill will have its Second Reading in the House of Lords on Monday, June 7th.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on the Environment Bill and its implications for access to nature.