Government amendments promised, released and waiting to be seen
1. An amendment to extend the net gain to large infrastructure projects
On Monday, the government announced that it would table an amendment to the environmental bill that would require major infrastructure projects to generate a net gain in biodiversity and wildlife.
The amendment was announced in the government’s response to the Dasgupta review on the economics of biodiversity. The response said the government “will legislate to introduce a net biodiversity gain for new infrastructure projects of national significance (NSIP) in England through an amendment to the Environment Bill”.
This, he said, will integrate a ‘positive approach to nature’ into the development of many of England’s biggest new infrastructure projects.
NSIPs are large-scale developments related to energy, transport, water or waste, but other types of projects such as large real estate developments would not be covered by this amendment.
2. Targets on species abundance
In May, Environment Secretary George Eustice delivered a speech at Delamere Forest in Cheshire where he announced an amendment to the Environment Bill which he said would set a legally binding target for species for 2030 to stop the decline of nature, hailing it as “the zero equivalent net for nature”.
However, when the proposed amendment was released last week, it was greeted with dismay by environmental groups, who claim the wording falls short of that promise.
Campaigners say, rather than making a firm commitment to halt species decline by 2030, the amendment ensures that any targets set or changed “would promote the goal of stopping the decline in species abundance.” as long as the Secretary of State is “satisfied” to do so.
The NGO Wildlife and Countryside Link coalition called on the government to replace the word “further” with “meet”.
3. Breaking the link with the Habitats Directive
Described by the government as a ‘refocusing of regulation on habitats’, this amendment would give the Secretary of State the power to change the regulations as they apply to England and sever the link with the Global Directive. of the EU.
The amendment states that in adopting new regulations, the Secretary of the Environment must “take into account the particular importance of promoting the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity” and the reasoning behind the rules must be presented to Parliament. . The government has announced that it will publish a green paper on reforms later this year, explaining how it will meet the target as part of its ambition to protect 30% of land land by 2030.
4. An amendment to fight against pollution of wastewater by storm overflows
Announced in the Queen’s Speech earlier this year, the Environment Secretary said amendments had to be presented to the Lords, which would create new obligations for the government to release a plan to reduce water discharges waste from storm overflows by September 2022. The amendment would also require the government to report to parliament on progress in implementing the plan, and that water companies and the Agency for the environment should publish data on overflow operations every year.
However, environmental groups criticized the move, saying laws already exist allowing the government and the Environment Agency to tackle sewage pollution, but they are not being used.