Six months ago, we passed our Environment Act. It was a turning point, and an example for the rest of the world to follow, setting us on a sustainable trajectory for the future. Now, in May 2022 we are getting on with the job and delivering on what we legislated to do. Through the Environment Act, we are cleaning up our air, restoring natural habitats, increasing biodiversity, reducing waste and making better use of our resources.
The Environment Act gives us the tools and the momentum we need to really deliver for our environment and put nature on the road to recovery during this decade. The Act gained Royal Assent during the UK’s hosting of the COP26 summit in Glasgow. We brought the world together to
secure ambitious commitments to tackle climate change, crucially getting restoring nature firmly embedded as an integral part of achieving this, and six months on we are still taking a global lead.
The Act will halt the decline in species by 2030, helping to reverse declines of iconic British species like the hedgehog, red squirrel and water vole. It will also require new developments to improve or create habitats for nature and tackle illegal deforestation overseas.
It will enable us to transition to a more circular economy, incentivising people to recycle more, encouraging businesses to create sustainable packaging, make household recycling easier and we will have the tools to stop the export of polluting plastic waste to developing countries. These changes will be driven by new legally binding environmental targets, which we are already consulting on.
Water quality is a huge priority. Through the Environment Act, we are cracking down on water companies that discharge sewage into rivers, waterways and coastlines. We are the first government to set out our expectation that water companies must act to reduce the harm caused by
storm sewage overflows, and in February our Strategic Policy Statement to the water regulator, Ofwat, made clear the importance of protecting the environment. We have gone even further, launching a consultation on our Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan to tackle the issue of
sewage discharges. By 2035, there will be 70% fewer discharges into our bathing waters. On the broader water agenda we are setting a wider range of other targets to clean up our water, including targets to reduce nitrates, phosphates and sediment and pollution emanating from historic mining areas.
We have also banned microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, banned the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, increased the plastic bag charge to 10p and extended it to all retailers and we have consulted on banning single use plastic cutlery, plates and polystyrene cups.
We also undertook a call for evidence on other problematic single use plastics – including wet wipes. The bulk of these contain tiny plastic particles which end up in the marine environment when wet wipes are flushed away and this needs to change. We will be announcing action to tackle this shortly.
We are cracking down on waste crime, which is estimated to cost the economy an astonishing £924m per year in England. In the last six months we have announced that we are reforming the licencing system, introducing mandatory digital waste tracking, investing to tackle fly tipping and
supporting people to dispose of their waste correctly. We have also published our response to our consultation on Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging, and will be responding to our consultations on a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and consistent recycling collections.
We have already consulted on the implementation of our due diligence requirements relating to the supply of key commodities including palm oil and soya which will help tackle illegal deforestation across the globe. We have published a draft Principles Policy Statement which will put protecting the environment at the heart of future policy, and we have launched a consultation on Biodiversity Net Gain.
Annex A: The Environment Act will deliver:
• Long-term targets to improve air quality, biodiversity, water, and waste reduction and
• A target on ambient PM2.5 concentrations, the most harmful pollutant to human health
• A target to halt the decline of nature by 2030
• Environmental Improvement Plans, including interim targets
• A cycle of environmental monitoring and reporting
• Environmental Principles embedded in domestic policy making
• Office for Environmental Protection to uphold environmental law
WASTE & RECYCLING
• Extended producer responsibility to make producers pay for 100% of cost of disposal of
products, starting with plastic packaging
• A deposit Return Scheme for single use drinks containers
• Charges for single use plastics
• Greater consistency in recycling collections in England
• Electronic waste tracking to monitor waste movements and tackle fly-tipping
• Tackle waste crime
• Power to introduce new resource efficiency information (labelling on the recyclability and
durability of products)
• Regulate shipment of hazardous waste
• Ban or restrict export of waste to non-OECD countries
• Require Local Authorities to tackle air quality
• Simplify enforcement within smoke control areas
• Strengthened biodiversity duty
• Biodiversity net gain to ensure developments deliver at least 10% increase in biodiversity
• Local Nature Recovery Strategies to support a Nature Recovery Network
• Duty upon Local Authorities to consult on street tree felling
• Strengthen woodland protection enforcement measures
• Conservation Covenants
• Protected Site Strategies and Species Conservation Strategies to support the design and
delivery of strategic approaches to deliver better outcomes for nature
• Prohibit larger UK businesses from using commodities associated with wide-scale
• Requires regulated businesses to establish a system of due diligence for each regulated
commodity used in their supply chain, requires regulated businesses to report on their due
diligence, introduces a due diligence enforcement system
• Effective collaboration between water companies through statutory water management
plans Drainage and sewerage management planning a statutory duty
• Minimise damage water abstraction may cause on environment
• Modernise the process for modifying water and sewerage company licence conditions
• A duty on water companies to ‘progressively reduce’ the adverse impacts of storm
• A new duty on Government to produce a statutory plan to reduce discharges from storm
• A new duty directly on water companies to produce comprehensive statutory Drainage and
Sewerage Management Plans, setting out how they will manage and develop their drainage
and sewerage system over a minimum 25-year planning horizon, including how storm
overflows will be addressed through these plans.
• A power of direction for the Government to direct water companies in relation to the
actions in these Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans. We will use this power of
direction if plans are not good enough. This is a powerful tool.
• A requirement for Government to produce a report setting out the actions that would be
needed to eliminate discharges from storm overflows in England, and the costs and benefits
of those actions. Both publications are required before 1 September 2022.
• A new duty directly on water companies and the Environment Agency to publish data on
storm overflow operation on an annual basis.
• A new duty directly on water companies to publish near real time information on the
operation of storm overflows. This means it will be clear as to how often storm overflows
are being used, which will aid enforcement.
• A new duty directly on water companies to monitor the water quality upstream and
downstream of storm overflows and sewage disposal works. We are also taking further
action to address broader water quality.