Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to ‘significantly strengthen’ its Environment Bill, which is expected to be republished in the coming days.
When the Bill was published in October last year, there was an expectation that it would include a legally binding target for PM2.5 in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. However, it only committed to setting the target before 2022.
They have also echoed concerns from environmental lawyers ClientEarth about environmental protections following the UK’s departure from the EU.
Whilst the UK will automatically retain EU environmental laws when it leaves the European Union, a clause was added to section 26 of the Withdrawal Bill that means any UK court or tribunal will be able to overrule case law from the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).
This could have big implications for air pollution as CJEU judgements have provided the basis for legal action against the UK government and have been credited as one of the key catalysts for change in the air quality sphere over recent years.
The campaign group has outlined five targets that they are asking the government to consider:
- Introduce a binding target to meet WHO standards for particulate matter by 2030 and a new clean air duty on all public authorities.
- Ensuring that existing environmental laws aren’t weakened post-Brexit.
- Making the planned environment watchdog independent, properly funded.
- Requiring all parts of government to adhere to environmental principles.
- Bringing a timetabled and binding commitment to step the flow of plastic, and phase out unnecessary single-use plastic.
Friends of the Earth campaigner, Kierra Box said: ‘The environment bill is a landmark opportunity for the government to keep its pledge to maintain and enhance protection of our environment and health.
‘Guarantees that UK environmental laws won’t be weakened post-Brexit are crucial, there are well-founded fears that our eco-protections may be used as a bargaining chip in future trade deals in a desperate race to the bottom.
‘To have any hope of being effective the new environment watchdog must be independent and properly funded and equipped with strong, sharp teeth to ensure that industry and government take it seriously.
‘Tough, enforceable targets to clean-up the nation’s filthy air and stem the tide on plastic pollution.
‘With the world in the midst of a planetary emergency, Boris Johnson’s government should use this opportunity to show how he will meet this challenge.’
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