What to Expect – Clean air and the Environment Bill
Author: Jason Torrance, Clean Air Cities Director, UK100
On 18 July 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May, announced that the Government would introduce a wide-ranging Environment Bill that will cover sectoral environmental regulation and standard setting in areas such as air quality, wildlife and habitats, better management of resources, water and waste. As the first dedicated environment bill for over twenty years this is a momentous commitment by Government and one that has the potential to transform environmental legislation and the policy that supports it.
Although the timing of the introduction of the proposed legislation into UK Parliament is not certain, the need for strong and ambitious environmental legislation is critical. There is a consensus that existing legislation needs to be updated and wider, more ambitious legislation is required to maintain protection for our environment after leaving the European Union.
At present the full draft legislation has not been published – and will enter the public domain upon entering Parliament. So far, we have seen publication of the ‘Draft Environment (Governance and Principles) Bill 2018’, an ‘Environment Bill: policy paper’ and various other documents.
Current understanding is that air quality will feature prominently within the proposed legislation with many of the measures proposed already outlined out in the Government’s Clean Air Strategy 2019. Commitments are set out in the strategy to introduce an up to date legislative framework for tackling air pollution at national and local level, and to strengthen local authority powers with respect to air quality.
For clean air – the Bill will seek to build upon The Environment Act 1995 which established The Environment Agency as well as the designation of Air Quality Management Areas. It will also integrate and update the Clean Air Act 1993, introduced to address air pollution from smog caused by the widespread burning of coal for residential heating and by industry. These two current pieces of legislation will provide a key base from which the Bill will be able to expand upon.
Formal scrutiny of the draft Environment (Governance and Principles) Bill has been carried out in the UK Parliament by both by The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and also The Environmental Audit Committee – both raising significant concerns. Local leaders have also advocated for the strongest environmental protections and necessary resources for their delivery – together with environment groups, and many in business and industry.
At the second National Clean Air Summit, February 2019, local leaders agreed a series of priorities that need to be included in the upcoming Environment Bill in order to improve air quality across the U.K. If taken forward, the priorities have the potential to transform environmental legislation and the policy that supports it, and put in place measures that will deliver clean air for generations to come.
For further information take a look at our more detailed Clean Air Legislation briefing.