New environmental law to deliver a green Brexit

15 May 2018

Article: 52/1910

The UK government has confirmed a new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will ensure environmental protections will not be weakened as Britain leaves the EU.

A consultation started on 10 May 2018 on the contents of the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill, which will establish a world-leading body to hold government to account for environmental outcomes.

The body will support the UK government’s commitment to ensure this generation is the first to leave the environment in a better state than that in which it was inherited.

The body will provide scrutiny and advice to protect and enhance precious landscapes, wildlife and natural assets and would be able to hold government to account on environmental legislation.

Subject to consultation, the new body could specifically be responsible for:

  • providing independent scrutiny and advice on existing and future government environmental law and policy
  • responding to complaints about government’s delivery of environmental law
  • holding government to account publicly over its delivery of environmental law and exercising enforcement powers where necessary

The government is also consulting on its intention to require ministers to produce, and then have regard to, a statutory and comprehensive policy statement setting out how they will apply core environmental principles as they develop policy and discharge their responsibilities. 

Currently environmental decisions made in the UK, from improving air and water quality to protecting endangered species, are overseen by the European Commission and underpinned by a number of these principles, such as the precautionary principle, sustainable development and the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

While these principles are already central to government environmental policy, they are not set out in one place besides the EU treaties. The new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will ensure governments continue to have regard to important environmental principles through the policy statement, which would be scrutinised by parliament.

The consultation seeks views on whether or not the principles to be contained in the policy statement should be listed in primary legislation.

Source: Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, 10 May 2018