Yesterday, the government’s much delayed Environment Bill returned to the Commons after weeks of debate in the House of Lords.
This legislation aims to replace EU environmental law. I believe we should be strengthening environmental regulation right now, but this Bill doesn’t go far enough.
The Bill covers a wide range of duties and legal requirements regarding a new environmental watchdog, air pollution targets, water resources and quality, waste and recycling, biodiversity, nature recovery and conservation.
This legislation could have gone so much further to protect our environment. Yesterday I voted for amendments to strengthen air pollution legal limits, bringing them in line with stricter World Health Organization guidelines. I also voted to strengthen chemical regulations and improve biodiversity protection. All these amendments were defeated by the government.
We pushed to strengthen the powers and independence of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) which will oversee implementation of environmental policy – as the European Commission did when we were in the European Union. We also wanted tougher controls on sewage discharge into rivers and protection for our pollinators. The government did not. They did however accept Labour’s proposal for regulations to be made about charges on all single use items, including plastic. This may feel like a small change but it will have a huge impact on changing throwaway culture.
I believe in taking bold and immediate steps to tackle the climate emergency, improve our air and clean our water. I also believe in the need for accountability. A strong and powerful OEP is critical if we are to meet our net zero targets.
We are living through a climate and ecological emergency. Labour has always supported strong positive action on the environment and climate, which is why it has committed to invest £28bn every year until 2030 towards tackling the climate emergency.
In the final stretch to the most important global climate summit at COP26, once more the government has dithered and delayed and is backing a Bill unfit for use. On the world stage, when we need to lead by example and encourage other countries to follow our lead and show real commitment, we have fallen short.
I call upon the government to take the steps necessary to preserve our planet and protect our environment.