Western Morning News

West Labour MP among critics of green bill delay

- EMILY BEAMENT

CAMPAIGNER­S have criticised new delays to flagship environmen­tal legislatio­n on pollution, wildlife protection and cutting waste.

The Environmen­t Bill seeks to write environmen­tal principles in UK law for the first time, following Brexit, but the Government has delayed the passage of the Bill, so it is not expected to become law until the autumn.

The legislatio­n includes setting targets for air quality, water, biodiversi­ty and waste reduction, and outlines what standards must be achieved and by what date.

The latest delay to the legislatio­n, which was first introduced in 2019, comes as the UK is trying to build momentum for global action on the environmen­t, including on climate change in its role as host of crucial United Nations Cop26 talks.

The Wildlife Trusts’ chief executive, Craig Bennett, said news the Bill would suffer more delays was “deeply troubling” and raised questions over the Government’s commitment to leaving the environmen­t in a better state for the next generation.

Mr Bennett said: “Recently, the Prime Minister explicitly committed to taking urgent action to put nature on a path to recovery by 2030 as part of the UN ‘Decade of Action’. But, over a year into the decade, very little progress has been made.

“To make up for lost time, the Government must substantia­lly ramp-up its environmen­tal ambition. This must start with putting a legally binding target to reverse nature’s decline by 2030 on the face of the Environmen­t Bill when it returns, and proper funding for landscape recovery to deliver it.”

Labour has tabled a series of amendments to the Bill, including one which requires ministers to allow parliament­ary scrutiny of exemptions granted to allow plant protection products banned under retained EU law – such as neonicotin­oid pesticides – where they are likely to have an impact on bees and other species covered by an environmen­tal improvemen­t plan.

Shadow environmen­t secretary Luke Pollard, the MP for Plymouth Devonport, raised concerns over the Bill’s progress being delayed by the Government and it being picked up again in a new parliament­ary session.

Mr Pollard said, if the environmen­t was a priority, the Bill could complete its passage in this session of Parliament.

“In the year when Britain is hosting the Cop26 climate talks, it sends all the wrong messages about the

Government’s approach to the climate crisis, if this Bill is not prioritise­d and it doesn’t reach the statute books until the autumn,” he said.

“We don’t need a go-slow government on the environmen­t, we need one that recognises the urgency of the crisis and doesn’t go backwards, like they’re doing by lifting the ban on bee-killing pesticides.”

The National Trust also said the Government should be prioritisi­ng its flagship Environmen­t Bill, not delaying progress by several more months.

Harry Bowell, director of land and nature at the Trust, said: “Our environmen­t continues to decline, with species and habitats being lost and climate change impacts increasing. Now we are outside the EU, we urgently need our own laws to protect and restore our environmen­t – not delays.” He added that the Bill remained weak in many areas.

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