The UK’s New Environmental Bill

On the 14th of October, during the latest Queen’s Speech, many new “ambitious” policies were set by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government. Alongside propositions of harsher punishment for violent crimes, a new light was also shined on the environmental situation within our country.

Quickly dismissed by opposing parties as “election manifestos”, (as the BBC puts it), these bills aim to introduce stricter penalties for offenders.

And while the various business people, political factions and corporate entities are busy worrying about what Brexit will mean for their profits, the eco-minded individuals are asking a different – and very important question – what will this mean for Britain’s environment. 

Among other things, the fast-approaching Brexit will also detach the UK’s eco-friendly policies and regulations from those imposed by the EU. As a result, our government will need to introduce a wide range of changes, in order to keep pollution in check.

Seeing as how the environmental situation all across the world is in dire straits, the need for such action is non-negotiable. On the bright side, this means that we are definitely going to have at least something implemented. On the other hand, however, nobody (but the corresponding officials) can tell you what the changes are going to entail. 

Hello everyone, and welcome back to our blog! Today, on Eco Bravo we will be going over what the new environmental bill entails, as well as the possible green gains that could result from it, should it be fully put into motion.

The New Environmental Bill in a Nutshell:

As per the BBC, the parliament aims to “enshrine principles in law”, providing a legally binding “improving targets”, focused on:

  • Reducing the rampant plastic consumption within the UK
  • Lowering the air pollution, improving the air quality as a result further down the line
  • Limiting water pollution factors, improving the water quality further down the line
  • Combating the ever-shrinking biodiversity

Furthermore, there are also plans for an animal welfare bill, which will make trophy hunting illegal.

The Current Situation

Under EU rules, the UK has been faced with significant fines for its low air quality. This resulted in moves, seeking to “improve nitrogen oxides pollution”. Furthermore, Mrs May’s government found itself signing the “circular economy” directive, which forced companies to cover as much as 80% of the disposal costs for their product packaging and wrapping.

And, while we’re still on the subject of packaging and plastic bags, it is worth noting that our community as a whole has made tremendous progress in reducing plastic consumption. For 2018-2019, England’s biggest supermarket chains - Morrisons, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda – have reported 549 million sales of single-use plastic bags. During the 2017-2018 period, this number was over 1 billion. A 50% improvement is definitely nothing to scoff at, but there is undoubtedly a lot more work that needs to be done.

What Does Brexit Have in Store for the UK’s Environmental Situation?

As soon as the UK takes its leave from the European Union, all of the legislations, mentioned above, will no longer have to be maintained. This means that the safety and preservation of nature will rest solely upon the shoulders of our own government. And while the independent governing model might sound appealing to many, environmentalists have been growing increasingly worried about what exactly will replace the rules, that we’re currently bound by. 

To address the situation, PM Boris Johnson’s government will need to produce a ruleset, both enticing and practical enough to be followed and abided by companies and individuals alike. And the solution, apparently, is expected to arrive in the form of an independent watchdog.

The UK’s New Environmental Watchdog

The Office for Environmental Protection

The Office for Environmental Protection (aptly abbreviated OEP), is going to be the organisation that holds our government accountable for eco-friendly matters. And while ministers agree that the OEP will not be permitted to issue fines for failing to comply with regulations, it will have the power to halt potentially dangerous projects, as well as hold authorities in contempt of court. 

As enticing as the idea may sound, many environmentalists have openly voiced their concerns that this new watchdog could quickly find itself muzzled and bound by powerful influences. In a bid to quell these doubts, Lord Randall has shared that the Treasury is growing increasingly warmer to the concept of a powerful independent organisation being granted such privileges in the near future. 

“I can see it might look silly if one government body fines another, but it would be a very powerful weapon,” said former PM Theresa May’s green adviser and conservative peer. 

Currently, the public opinion is concerned with a multitude of “ifs” and “when’s”, as we can do nothing but await the policy’s full release (date currently unknown).

Air Pollution in the UK

Just how bad is the air situation in the country? Well, it was apparently bad enough for the EU to threaten debilitating fines on multiple occasions. As it stands, there are still parts of the UK in direct breach of the World Health Organization standards for fine pollution airborne particles. And while our new watchdog – the Office for Environmental Protection – will lack the legislative power to project such demands or issue financial penalties for failing to meet them, there is no reason to be pessimistic just yet.

PM Boris Johnson has stated that his government is intent on setting an entirely separate, “ambitious” standard for the country post Brexit. And, as is often the case with such statements, however, the essential details are still up in the air. Whether he means that the UK is going to stick to the 80% target or aim at exceeding it remains a mystery.

The “Throw-away” Issue

Over the last few years, the general public’s awareness of the plastic issue has increased significantly. But while the effort was indeed commendable, environmentalists from the coalition of pressure groups Greener UK, urge caution. “We’ve got to be smarter about this”, said Libby Peake, warning that “People are already turning to glass and aluminium drinks containers, which have more impact on the climate.”

plastic pollution

Naturally, this begs the question – where is the long-term solution? Our population moved from the “bad” containers to the “safer” ones, only to realise that, in the end, they weren’t the better choice? 

Some argue that it isn’t really the type of item that we consume, but rather the fact of consumption itself. And until our society tosses away the very concept of consumerism, the issue will only continue worsening. Sadly, it’s nowhere near as simple as that. Nobody can seriously expect a government to “remove” consumerism and no amount of general legislations can hope to combat its effects on nature completely.

It’s up to Us as Individuals

As is usually the case, the real burden of change falls upon the shoulders of the individual. We are, after all, completely capable of deciding between different products, as well as the quantities in which we choose to consume them. Every individual is free to make a choice for themselves, whether it is the safer, greener and cleaner, or the easier, faster and simpler one. 

If you want to lessen the negative impact you or your household have on the environment, you can most certainly do that. You don’t need to wait or worry about what new  environmental bill gets passed. You can get up and take action right now. Here’s what you can do:

  • Educate yourself – learn about which products affect the environment and why
  • Declutter your life – do away with the unnecessary items in your household
  • Think before you buy – stop purchasing things that you don’t need
  • Learn to say “No” – understand how to withstand aggressive marketing tactics
  • Look for reusable items – say no to throw-away, single-use products
  • Recycle – always seek to recycle as much of your items as possible

And what about you, dear reader? What is your take on this environmental bill? Do you think that Brexit will help the UK solve its environmental woes? Or would it just make things worse? What are you, personally, doing to combat pollution? Please do not hesitate to give us your thoughts, opinions and ideas on the matter in the comments below – we love hearing from you! 

Thank you for reading, and we’ll see you all next time!

© Eco Bravo


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