In its 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government committed to consult on environmental governance arrangements to replace the role of the European institutions after Brexit and avoid a damaging "governance gap". There was also a commitment to consult on how the EU environmental principles, which have underpinned much environmental law and progress over the past 40 years, could be replicated in the UK. In May, the Government brought forward its proposals and launched a 12 week consultation, which closed on the 2nd August. The IES has responded to this consultation, submitting evidence, and setting out our vision for a future system of environmental governance underpinned by science, evidence, appropriate enforcement mechanisms, and a high level of environmental ambition.
Amendments tabled and accepted in the House of Lords and House of Commons to the EU (Withdrawal) Act, after the publication of this consultation document, mean that the Government is now obliged to embed certain environmental principles in primary legislation, and also to publish a draft bill (the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill) within six months of the passing of the Withdrawal Act. Although this amendment addresses some concerns of the environmental sector about future arrangements, and there are some positive proposals included in the paper, our conclusion is that more detail is needed and the proposals need strengthening in a number of key areas.
Among other points:
- We argue that the new legislation must require public authorities to "act in accordance with" environmental principles, rather than simply having regard to them.
- We make the case for the co-creation of a UK-wide governance body, which is independent of government and jointly accountable to each of the four Assemblies/Parliaments of the UK nations.
- We call for a stronger suite of escalating enforcement mechanisms to be available to the body, to ensure environment law is implemented appropriately.
- We argue that the body must be adequately resourced and have access to scientific expertise in-house in order to undertake these tasks, and have the power to commission research or advice where this is not possible or data does not exist.
The IES has also contributed to a joint submission of the Environmental Policy Forum. This submission will be available shortly.