Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust welcome the passing of the Environment Act today, which will help the UK Government make significant progress in tackling the climate and nature crises. Along with The Wildlife Trusts nationally, other NGOs, MPs and Peers, we have campaigned for this bill for more than three years and are pleased to see it receive Royal Assent in its current, much-strengthened form.
The inclusion of a legally-binding 2030 species abundance target has the potential to boost efforts to reverse the decline in wildlife, and will put the UK on the path towards protecting 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030. The new requirement for planning applications to provide Biodiversity Net Gain will encourage developers to put nature at the heart of their work, whilst Local Nature Recovery Strategies will create the framework for a national system of interconnected sites for nature.
Yet the Environment Act does not live up to its promise to be a world leading piece of legislation. Plans for the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) have been improved by ministers, but the Secretary of State’s ability to provide the OEP with “guidance” – even where cases affect ministers themselves – drastically undermines its independence. The Government resisted all efforts to put legally binding interim targets within the Act and the duty for local authorities to follow Local Nature Recovery Strategies plans is weak.
It is also vital that Government agencies like Natural England and the Environment Agency are given the necessary funding to facilitate their role in delivering on the Act. Without it, we will continue to see habitats decline and rivers badly polluted.
“We, with the other Wildlife Trusts and environmental NGOs across the country, have been waiting for this crucial piece of legislation to be passed into law for three years and so are very pleased with this announcement” said Dr Nicky Rivers, Living Landscape Development Manager at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust.
“It does not contain everything we have been advocating for and could have been a stronger piece of legislation in many areas that were watered down by the Government. Despite this, it is still a real step forward, with the legislation covering Biodiversity Net Gain, Local Nature Recovery Strategies, legally binding species recovery targets and the strengthening of the NERC Biodiversity Duty.
“What this means in practice is that there will be more joined up strategies for nature’s recovery, linked to planning and other work by public bodies and partners, and importantly that this will be a legal requirement. At Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust we will continue our work with Local Authorities and other partners to ensure the best possible implementation of the requirements of the new Act.”
We would like to thank our members and others who have supported our Wilder Future campaign, which helped us demonstrate significant public support on these issues to local MPs and contributed to securing the gains for wildlife and habitats in the new legislation.
For more information about the new Environment Act, click here.