Climate: Government postpones Environment Bill again

The Environment Bill has been postponed again because of a lack of time for scrutiny, the government says.

Jan. 26, 2021 3 minSource

Long awaited laws to protect nature in the UK have been delayed yet again.

Debate on amendments to the Environment Bill is scheduled in the Commons for Tuesday , but the government has halted further discussions and postponed the legislation.

It says ministers are still committed to the bill, but the pandemic has left too little time to scrutinise it properly.

The planned legislation will return in the next Parliamentary session.

Campaigners are angry at the latest delay to a bill that was first launched under the previous prime minister, Theresa May, back in July 2018.

The bill sets long-term binding targets for improving the UK's natural world.

Beccy Speight, the RSPB's chief executive, said: "The slow, stop-start nature of the Environment Bill's passage does not help us take the rapid action needed to tackle the nature and climate emergency.

"Our only hope is that this delay is used to improve the bill. Environmental groups including the RSPB have made a series of measured and sensible improvements, such as legally binding targets to turn the tide on the loss of nature, and these should now be seriously considered.

"These changes would help us get our own house in order at a time when the prime minister wants to show international leadership in the run-up to the key global biodiversity and climate summits later this year."

Ministers say they wants to leave nature in a better state than they found it. They have set targets for improving water, waste and wildlife - but these won't become legally binding until 2027, which campaigners say is far too late.

They want the targets to be brought forward to 2030 at the latest.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts said: "The news of yet more delay is deeply troubling.

"The prime minister said the bill was 'the huge star of our legislative programme... a lodestar by which we will guide our country towards a cleaner, and greener future'.

"The fact that the government plans to end the Parliamentary session over a year on without having delivered the 'star' of the programme will raise questions over its commitment to leaving the environment in a better state for the next generation.

"Recently, the prime minister explicitly committed to taking urgent action to put nature on a path to recovery by 2030 as part of the UN Decade of Action. But over a year into the decade, very little progress has been made."

A government spokesperson said: "The pandemic has resulted in exceptional pressure on the Parliamentary timetable, which has reduced the amount of time for scrutiny of legislation.

"Carrying over the bill will ensure sufficient time for Parliamentary scrutiny and prevent the bill falling if it had not completed passage through Parliament when this session ends.

"If the bill fell, it would have to restart passage next parliamentary session. Allowing the bill to recommence from the second day of report early in the next Parliamentary session ensures the progress made so far in Parliament is not lost."

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