The Arrival of the Green Mile Conclusion

The Arrival of the Green Mile Conclusion

What just happened?

The Environment Bill has been given Royal Assent to the legislation this evening but Greener UK warns 'gaping holes' in environmental protections remain. (1)

What does this mean:

The government held a second reading of the revised environmental Bill for 2020 that outlines the post-Brexit environmental reform and governance agenda, which would allow the Secretary of State to create new regulations on air quality, water use, waste disposal and resource management, biodiversity and environmental risks from chemical pollution, as well as create a new non-governmental body, the Environmental Protection Agency (EOP), an environmental watchdog. The government describes this as the most "radical" environmental law to date and thinks that the law is essential for climate control. (2)

The Bill empowers governments to establish a robust governance system that will help ensure that environmental laws are properly implemented and adhered to by all government agencies. (3) The Bill will set legally binding environmental improvement targets and create a new independent environmental agency to ask the government to report back on its promise to achieve zero net emissions by 2050. It is likely to play a crucial role in environmental governance following Brexit by enshrining environmental principles and specific objectives in law and creating the necessary structure and institutions (in the form of an EOP) to apply and implement these principles and objectives. (4)

How does it impact the legal sector?

The EOP will have executive powers through a new mechanism called environmental impact assessment, which will allow the study of potential environmental law violations. The new amendment transfers the environmental review to the High Court without explaining how it would improve existing mechanisms for bringing disputes to government decisions. Currently, environmental principles are binding on all public authorities (when they apply law within the EU environmental jurisdiction) in all relevant cases, including individual administrative decisions. (5)

In particular, current environmental legislation requires the UK government to prepare an environmental improvement plan to "significantly improve the environment" for at least 15 years. Progress should be reported annually and accompanied by a series of long-term reports. These changes threaten the EOP's ability to contribute to the environment, thereby compromising the UK government's ability to achieve its goal of the most ambitious environmental agenda in the world. (6)

The EOP's enforcement powers are broader than those originally proposed in December. EOP will now have the power to challenge decisions based on climate change, including whether government action is in line with the Kingdom's goal of zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It will also have the power to investigate and prosecute government agencies for non-compliance with the Environmental Waste Law.(7) This is a seismic shift in the governance of the environment. It will amend the 1995 Environmental Act to require air quality reporting and allow local governments to help meet the target. However, there is some concerns regarding the new law. These concerns are raised by the creation of EPA, the watchdog of British environmental standards that activists fear will not be independent or influential enough with the current Bill. Subsequently, the first defeat was an amendment by Lord Krebs, which allowed the secretary of state to grant broad powers over the EOP leadership, including whether the non-compliance is serious and how it performs its enforcement functions. Only time will tell if this country will be able to reduce pollution through vigorous governance that is implemented to date. (8)

The Legists Content Team

Assessing Firms:

#Allen & Overy LLP #Burges Salmon LLP #Clifford Chance LLP #CMS #Leigh Day #Linklaters LLP #Baker McKenzie #Dentons #Latham & Watkins #Norton Rose Fulbright #Travers Smith LLP

1 https://www.businessgreen.com/news/4040042/momentous-day-environment-finally-law-green-warn-gaping-holes-uk-legislation

2 https://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2020/03/13/the-new-environmental-bill-what-does-it-have-in-store/ and https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/26/fury-as-long-awaited-uk-environment-bill-is-delayed-for-the-third-time

3 https://gowlingwlg.com/en/insights-resources/articles/2020/environment-bill-2020-analysis/, https://greenallianceblog.org.uk/2020/12/10/the-government-is-backsliding-on-the-environment-bill-before-it-even-becomes-law/ and https://www.clientearth.org/latest/latest-updates/news/why-the-uk-environment-bill-matters/

4 https://gowlingwlg.com/en/insights-resources/articles/2020/environment-bill-2020-analysis/ and https://www.globalelr.com/2019/10/uk-government-outlines-new-powers-and-regulations-in-environment-bill/

5 https://greenallianceblog.org.uk/2020/12/10/the-government-is-backsliding-on-the-environment-bill-before-it-even-becomes-law/ and https://www.brexitenvironment.co.uk/2019/10/18/framework-progressive-environmental-law/

6 https://greenallianceblog.org.uk/2020/12/10/the-government-is-backsliding-on-the-environment-bill-before-it-even-becomes-law/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7495404/

7 https://gowlingwlg.com/en/insights-resources/articles/2020/environment-bill-2020-analysis/, https://www.globalelr.com/2019/10/uk-government-outlines-new-powers-and-regulations-in-environment-bill/ andhttp://www.slrconsulting.com/news-and-insights/insights/what-uks-environment-bill-and-which-industries-will-it-impact

8 https://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2020/03/13/the-new-environmental-bill-what-does-it-have-in-store/, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/26/fury-as-long-awaited-uk-environment-bill-is-delayed-for-the-third-time and https://www.endsreport.com/article/1731545/environment-bill-peers-vote-strengthen-green-watchdog-enforcement

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