I am writing to update you on the latest developments regarding this legislation and its important progression through Parliament.
The Government are currently reflecting on concerns about the Bill raised by colleagues and interested parties. As a Minister who is part of the Government, I will be raising your thoughts on the amendments, including amendment NC5, with the Government Whips and my Ministerial colleagues
The Environment Bill will place environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of Government. I am pleased that legislative measures will be introduced to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age, ensuring we can deliver on the commitment to leave the natural world in a better condition than we found it. It will ensure this, and future governments, are held to account if they fail to uphold their environmental duties. These will include meeting net-zero by 2050, as well as wider long-term legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality, water, and resource and waste efficiency which will be established under the Bill.
As set out in the 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment, the decision to leave the European Union has created an historic opportunity to deliver a Green Brexit, where environmental standards are not only maintained but enhanced.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about the Government’s historic announcement on the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK by 2030, putting the UK on course to be the fastest G7 country to decarbonise cars and vans. The move is underpinned by over £1.8 billion to support greater uptake of zero emission vehicles for greener car journeys. This an absolutely vital step in this Government’s net-zero target of 2050.
The decision to leave the European Union has created an historic opportunity to deliver a Green Brexit, where environmental standards are not only maintained but enhanced. Long-term legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality, water, and resource and waste efficiency will be established under the Bill and the Secretary of State will be required to give updates to Parliament on these.
As the UK was the first G7 economy to legislate to achieve net zero emissions, I welcome the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan which will allow the UK to forge ahead in eradicating the UK’s contribution to climate change.
In the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government committed to developing a Nature Recovery Network and, in the long term, to create or restore 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside the protected site series. A new framework for Local Nature Recovery Strategies will be legislated for in the Environment Bill, to help support the Nature Recovery Network and better direct investment in the environment and green infrastructure – creating places that are richer in wildlife and provide wider benefits for local communities. The Bill will also require the preparation and publication of Local Nature Recovery Strategies, mapping nature-rich habitats, so that investment can be targeted where it will make the most difference. These local plans will embrace local knowledge to strengthen links between neighbouring communities and support the wider Network.
On energy, the UK will produce enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we currently produce to 40GW by 2030, thereby supporting up to 60,000 jobs. The Government will work with industry and aim to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes. In addition, the Government aims to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade. The UK will also become a world leader in carbon capture technology to store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emission of the industrial Humber today, through £200 million investment. Finally, from £525 million investment in nuclear as a clean energy source this will develop the next generation of small and advanced reactors which could support 10,000 jobs.
Other parts of the plan include a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028, £1 billion funding to make our schools, hospitals and homes more energy efficient, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, promoting and investing in zero-emission transport and £20 million to develop clean maritime technology. The plan also includes a pledge to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, while the sale of some hybrid cars and vans will continue until 2035.
At the centre of this blueprint are the UK’s industrial heartlands, including in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, the Midlands, Scotland and Wales, which will drive forward the green industrial revolution and build green jobs and industries of the future.
This plan will mobilise £12 billion of Government investment to create and support 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs across the UK. It is expected to spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030. The plan builds on the UK’s existing strengths and will cement London as the global centre of green finance. The plan is particularly important in the run up to hosting the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November 2021 where the UK will call for further global action.
The Environment Bill states the Office for Environmental Protection must act objectively and impartially. Ministers will not be able to set its programme of activity or influence its decision-making and it is intended its chair will be subject to a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing. It is important this Office is independent, and I have been assured it will be.
I will take the due time to look into, and assess, all amendments, including Amendment NC5. On nature recovery targets, the UK is committed to playing a leading role in developing an ambitious and transformative post-2020 framework for global biodiversity under the convention on biological diversity. Following agreement of this framework, Ministers will publish a new strategy for nature in England that will outline how they will implement the convention on biological diversity’s new global targets domestically and meet the 25-year environmental goals for nature at the same time.
I recognise the importance of setting legally binding targets to support these ambitions, so I am pleased the Environment Bill includes a requirement to set at least one long-term, legally binding target in relation to biodiversity, as well as targets for air quality, water and resource efficiency, and waste reduction. I know the Government will determine the specific areas in which targets will be set using the robust and transparent target-setting, monitoring and reporting process the Bill legislates for, and will seek advice from independent experts. I am pleased that both Parliament and the public will have the opportunity to provide input to the development of these targets.