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ClientEarth Communications

11th October 2019

Rule of law

Why the UK environment bill matters

Today, the Government released its long-awaited Environment Bill to tackle the UK’s biggest environmental challenges.

Find out why the new environmental legislation matters:

Why do we need a UK Environment Bill?

Brexit risks setting the UK back on environmental protections. This bill gives us the chance to remedy that.

When the UK leaves the EU, we will lose access to important EU bodies that monitor and enforce our environmental laws as well as important overarching environmental principles that guide law and policy.  Without a UK Environment Bill, we risk weaker protections for our environment.

ClientEarth Global Programmes Counsel Karla Hill explains: “EU institutions oversee much of the proper implementation and compliance of our environmental law. Outside of the EU, the UK needs a fully independent body with real powers to make sure government bodies live up to their environmental commitments – or we risk environmental law being ignored.”

What does the Environment Bill cover?

Last December the UK government announced plans for new environmental legislation aimed at filling the governance gap created by Brexit and setting out a new framework for environmental law post-Brexit. Since the announcement of the bill, we’ve been working as part of the Greener UK coalition to increase the pressure on the government to ensure this bill provides the necessary protection to the UK environment.

As well as establishing a new environmental watchdog – the Office of Environmental Protection – to hold governments and other public bodies to account when the environment is under threat, the bill also sets out new legal frameworks for air pollution, water quality and nature conservation. However, as it stands, the bill is another missed opportunity for people’s right to breathe clean air.

Regarding the new watchdog, Tom West, UK environment lead for ClientEarth, said: “We’re pleased to see the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will have access to a new ‘environmental review’ process. This has the potential to redesign how environmental law is enforced in the UK but realising this potential is dependent on environmental decisions being actively and properly assessed by experts. And on the existence of more powerful remedies, so that we can be sure that decisions are improved.

“To unlock its real potential, the OEP must not be so restricted in what laws it can consider. And the public too should have access to the environmental review function to hold government to account.”

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