Environment Bill

I am writing to update you on the latest developments regarding this legislation and its important progression through Parliament.

On the 30th June 2020 I hosted a virtual lobby for mid-Sussex constituents to express their views on Climate Change and other environmental matters. It was great to hear from so many constituents about a wide variety of issues which included: what can we do to avoid an ecological crisis, ensuring housing and development are sustainable, and ways in which we can encourage active travel and cycling. It was a great insight and we were meet with some brilliant ideas, so thank you to all those who attended. As laid out below, I want to ensure that we as a government reach out targets initially laid out in out Manifesto 2019 and furthered by the Environment Bill and Budget 2020. I continue to stay engaged with the committee and climate change and be an advocate for a greener UK.

Protecting our future generations means a great deal to me, as I know it does to all parents and grandparents and everybody who values the natural world. I’m fully committed to supporting this legislation, as it is an incredibly important step in protecting our country’s environment, which includes improving our current environmental protections across the board. I am proud to be supporting this vital Government legislation, which will tackle the greatest environmental challenges we face, reaffirming Britain’s place as the world’s leader in the fight against climate change.

I am told that once the Bill has completed the Committee Stage, the Government will reflect on concerns about the Bill raised by colleagues and interested parties. I look forward to the Bill coming back to the House, at which point I will have the opportunity to vote on any amendments brought forward there. As a Government Minister, I have been on the front bench listening and supporting my fellow Ministers where possible in the Chambers, in order to hear readings and debates on this Government’s flagship Environment Bill, as well as engaging with the respective Ministerial teams and departments involved in bringing this legislation before the House of Commons. Outside of Parliament, I am committed to doing my best to refill, reuse and recycle. Which is helped with the introduction of Plastic Packaging Tax, as well as providing further funding to encourage producers to make their packaging more recyclable.

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. As part of the plan, the Government has 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 pointed noted out in your concerns. The Bill will also require the preparation and publication of Local Nature Recovery Strategies, which includes 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.

The UK has already cut carbon emissions by more than any other G7 country and in 2019 was the first major economy to legislate for a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. As the UK prepares to host the COP26 UN climate summit next year (following its postponement due to the coronavirus), the Budget announced a range of policies to reduce emissions, ensure our environment is protected and resilient, and generate green economic opportunities across the country.

The UK government is committed to getting the UK towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, as a result, the Chancellor has given road users £1bn a year by freezing the tax paid at fuel pumps in addition to spending £27bn on road projects. The entitlement to use red diesel will be removed except for agriculture, fish farming, rail and non-commercial heating. To tackle air pollution, local authorities will receive £304 million to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Road transport accounts for around a fifth of overall UK emissions. The Government’s Budget announced investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure to ensure drivers are never more than 30 miles from a rapid charging station, doing this by pledging £500m to support the rollout of new rapid charging stations.  It also provides £532 million for consumer incentives for ultra-low emission vehicles and reduces taxes on zero emission vehicles.

As you have remarked, the need for an environment ‘watchdog’, this legislation includes the establishment of an important, independent Office for Environmental Protection, whose function will be to scrutinise future environmental policies and laws, take firm action against those who fail to uphold our world-leading environmental standards, as well as to investigate major environmental concerns.

Thank you again for taking the time to email me on this crucial legislation. I hope this was helpful, stay safe!