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Environment Bill: protection of water resources key

The government has unveiled a raft of new policies in its Environment Bill, with the protection of water resources sitting at the heart of it.

For the first time, the enhanced Bill will create new powers to stop the exports of polluting plastic waste to developing countries, which could prevent harmful waste from being shipped out of sight whilst boosting the UK’s domestic recycling system.

More broadly, the ground-breaking Bill will enshrine environmental principles in law and introduce measures to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive.

The Bill makes reference to “increasing sustainable water management through securing long-term, resilient water and wastewater services in the face of a changing climate”.

It also sets out powers to direct water companies to work together to meet current and future demand for water.

The Bill will include a new commitment to review the biggest developments in environmental legislation from around the world every other year. The government will use the findings in considering the UK’s own environmental plans.

This will work alongside a requirement for current and future Ministers to make a statement to Parliament identifying environmental impacts of all new environmental primary legislation.

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “We are facing climate change and our precious natural environment is under threat. We need to take decisive action. 

“We have set out our pitch to be a world leader on the environment as we leave the EU and the Environment Bill is a crucial part of achieving this aim. It sets a gold standard for improving air quality, protecting nature, increasing recycling and cutting down on plastic waste.

“This will build on the UK’s strong track record as the first major economy to commit to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and will drive further action in this super year for the environment, culminating in the UK welcoming the world to the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in November in Glasgow.”

As well as the measures outlined above, legislation will create legally-binding environmental improvement targets.

A new independent Office for Environmental Protection will be established to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action against public authorities, if necessary, to uphold our environmental standards. The office’s powers will cover all climate change legislation and hold the government to account on its commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The Bill places the ambition of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing and creates powers to enhance nature and habitats, and combat the devastating effects of plastics on the natural environment.

The Bill, included in December’s Queen’s Speech and introduced today (30 Jnauary), will:

  • Ensure the environment is at the heart of all government policy making and that this government – and future governments – are held to account if they fail to uphold their environmental duties, including meeting net-zero by 2050 and wider long-term legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality, water, and resource efficiency and waste management that are established under the Bill.
  • Transform the way we manage our waste – through powers that enable the UK to require producers to take more responsibility for the products and materials they place on the market, including when they become waste, introducing a consistent approach to recycling, tackling waste crime, creating powers to introduce bottle deposit return schemes and having more effective litter enforcement
  • Improve air quality – by introducing measures to reduce pollution so children and young people can live longer healthier lives.
  • Restore and enhance nature – through ‘biodiversity net gain’ the government will ensure that the new houses that are built are delivered in a way which protects and enhances nature, helping to deliver thriving natural spaces for local communities.
  • Protect precious water resources – by increasing sustainable water management through securing long-term, resilient water and wastewater services in the face of a changing climate. Powers to direct water companies to work together to meet current and future demand for water will make planning more robust.


Find out more about how the industry is responding to the environmental crisis at the WWT Water Security in a Changing Environment Conference on 6 May: https://event.wwtonline.co.uk/security/

Author: Alec Peachey,
Topic: Sustainability & social value
Tags: government , water companies , water , environment


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