The Government’s Environment Bill, designed to replace some EU laws that no longer apply to the UK, moves to the House of Lords this week after clearing its House of Commons stages last month.
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.
Despite these positive moves, the Bill represents a missed opportunity at this crucial point in setting the UK’s environmental priorities. The Ramblers are calling for the Bill to be amended to ensure it requires the government to improve people’s access to and enjoyment of nature.
In particular, the Ramblers want to see the Bill amended to require the Government to set legally-binding, long-term targets to increase public access to, and enjoyment of, the natural environment. The Bill should also include steps to improve people’s enjoyment of the natural environment in the Government’s future Environmental Plans.
Stephen Russell, Policy and Advocacy Officer at the Ramblers, said:
“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. It is not too late for the Government to show the leadership we desperately need and amend the Bill so that everyone, everywhere can enjoy walking in nature.”
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