UK – 18 July 2018
The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced a new bill to protect the environment.
At a meeting of Liaison Committee of Select Committee Chairs Chairman Neil Parish asked Mrs May to respond to calls from all political parties for a new Clean Air Act.
According to Business Green the Prime Minister said “We will bring forward an Environment Bill and clean air will be part of that Environment Bill, There has not been an Environment Act since 1995, so we want to bring forward an Environment Bill that would incorporate a range of issues. Clean Air would be within that.”
Details of what the act will cover remain obscure although Mrs May did say that she thought that leaving the EU would offer opportunities in the area of environmental protection legislation and that improving cross-departmental cooperation in the government on environmental issues could also be addressed.
In a statement Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, said the blill would be “another key step towards achieving a Green Brexit and it will help to ensure Britain can be cleaner and greener for future generations.”
Some enviromental organisations were enthusistic about the statement. Tony Juniper of, Executive Director for Advocacy and Campaigns at the World Wildlife Fund tweeted “We look forward to working with you on making this a world-leading step, one that our children and grandchildren will thank us for, and be proud of. Let the work begin.” But he also said: “Our country is increasingly bereft of wildlife, our rivers polluted, there is more and more plastic in the sea and an ever-increasing area of green space covered with concrete. This new law must set clear targets for the recovery of the natural world that we all depend upon. There is no time to waste.”
Amy Mount of the Greener UK coalition of campaign groups tweeted “Positive framing of the upcoming Environment Bill from the PM – absolutely has to be about a Greener UK, leaving our environment in a better state, not just filling the gaps left by Brexit”
Martin Harper, director of conservation at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: “As the UK seeks to leave the European Union, we urgently need all our governments to not only maintain the current levels of nature protection but to raise the bar and allow our wildlife to recover.”
The announcement was not met enthusistically by everyone however.
Craig Bennett from Friends of the Earth told the BBC: “This could be an act that really moves forward protection of nature. But we don’t know what the bill will include, what will be its foundations and when it will be delivered.”
“The whole thing could be thrown into disarray if we get a no-deal Brexit, which will leave us out of the EU without having had the time to get new laws in place to replace EU laws,” he added.
An advisor to both government ministers and big business and chairman of environmental think tank E3G, Tom Burke, tweeted: “Why would anyone trust a government that has crippled the planning system, destroyed the independence of environmental regulators, cut investment in energy efficiency and delayed the deployment of renewables with an environment bill?”
The government’s 25-year environment plan, published earlier this year promised action on waste, the natural environment, air pollution and improving health through access to nature.