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Stronger protections for the environment

New measures to enhance wildlife, transform our waste system and improve the resilience of water supplies set out in Environment Bill policy statement.

New measures to enhance wildlife, transform our waste system and improve the resilience of water supplies have been set out today by Environment Secretary Michael Gove (Tuesday 23 July).

In an update on progress towards the introduction of the landmark Environment Bill – the first for 20 years – the government has published firm positions, following a range of consultations, on issues ranging from trees to water to recycling, to boost our natural environment.

Mr Gove has set out the government’s ambitions for the full Environment Bill in an updated summer policy statement, including commitments to legislate on environmental governance, air, biodiversity, water, and waste and resource efficiency.

As well as this, the government has published a report on the feasibility of achieving the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline level of 10 micrograms per cubic metre for fine particulate matter (PM2.5). This report concludes that, whilst challenging, it would be technically feasible to meet the WHO guideline level across the UK. Further analysis is needed to understand what would be an appropriate timescale and means, and we will work with a broad range of experts, factoring in full economic, social and technological feasibility to do this.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

We know we must do all we can to protect our precious natural environment. There is a clear need to act to ensure we do not leave this planet to the next generation more polluted, more dangerous and denuded of its natural riches.</p> <p>The measures in our Environment Bill will position the UK as a world leader, ensuring that after EU Exit environmental ambition and accountability are placed more clearly than ever before at the heart of government.</p> <p>As we have set out today, our plans will improve air quality so that our children live longer, restore habitats and increase biodiversity, strive towards a more circular economy and ensure we can manage our precious water resources in a changing climate.

Announced by the Prime Minister last year, the landmark Environment Bill will be an essential step to put the 25 Year Environment Plan on statutory footing, placing environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government. It will be introduced early in the second session of this Parliament.

HM Treasury has also published a summary of responses to its consultation on a world-leading new plastic packaging tax that will encourage greater use of recycled plastic and help to tackle plastic waste.

The great amount of interest shown from both the public, environmental groups and industry, highlights how important an issue this is to many. The government will set out next steps related to the tax at the Budget.

Government responses to consultations

Today’s publications include responses to six public consultations and set out next steps for:

  • A deposit return scheme (DRS) for drinks containers – More than 200,000 people responded to this consultation, demonstrating strong support for a DRS scheme. The Bill will introduce powers that will enable a deposit return scheme to be implemented in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 2023.
  • Consistency in household and business recycling – The government aims to make it easier for people to recycle by implementing a consistent and simplified approach across local authorities. The government will legislate to introduce a core set of consistent recyclable materials (including food waste) to be collected from all households and businesses, supporting frequent and comprehensive rubbish and recycling collections. It will also require manufacturers to put clearer labelling on packaging so consumers know what they can recycle.
  • Extended producer responsibility (EPR) – The Environment Secretary has been clear he wants to drive a shift in the market towards durable, repairable and recyclable products. New powers to enact EPR schemes that will ensure producers pay the full costs of managing the disposal of their products will be sought, as well as powers to enable government to set resource efficient product requirements.
  • Biodiversity net gain – A mandatory approach to biodiversity net gain will be introduced in the Bill that will legally require developers to ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced, with a 10% increase in habitat for wildlife compared with the pre-development baseline.
  • Conservation covenants – The government plans to legislate on conservation covenants, a voluntary agreement between a landowner and others (for example, a conservation charity) to help guarantee positive local conservation for the long term.
  • Improving our management of water in the environment – The Environment Secretary has been clear that water companies need to do more to help improve the environment and better prepare for future demand for water. There was strong support in response to a consultation on proposals to improve long-term planning of water resources and drainage. The Bill will introduce powers to direct water companies to work together to address these issues, such as transferring supplies between catchments during drought conditions, and instructing them to have robust plans in place to maintain supplies.

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