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Policy and Parliamentary Update
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The Society's Policy and Parliamentary Lead, Dr Tatum Matharu, updates us on policy work taking place at the Society for our email newsletter.


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Top tags: Brexit  Policy  25 Year Environment Plan  DEFRA  Environment  EU Withdrawal Bill  25YEP  CEnv  Environmental Professionals  Gove  Government  Great Repeal Bill  Industrial Strategy  Parliament  REACH  Recess  REnvTech  Repeal Bill  Survey  Withdrawal Bill 

August 2018

Posted By Phil Underwood, 15 August 2018

It's Summer Recess - Time to Revamp the Website

A busy time before the summer recess. This isn't parliament, but it isn't too far away.

As usual, the early summer months have seen a flurry of parliamentary activity ahead of recess; but ‘business as usual’ now includes Brexit, so this year’s pre-recess period also involved a spot of high drama and a number of momentous milestones in our ongoing process of leaving the European Union.

Most significantly, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill completed its passage through Parliament and received its Royal Assent on 26th June, though not without some important compromises in the ping pong process between the Houses. And most significantly for the environmental community, this amendments process ensured the Act now includes a statutory obligation for the Environment Secretary to bring a suite of environmental principles, a statutory statement about their interpretation and plans for the establishment of a public body dedicated to environmental governance in a Bill before Parliament this autumn. 

The now familiar sight on a sunny day in Westminster, London. 

This latter development had an immediate impact on a consultation exercise already opened by Defra in May (in line with a commitment made in its 25 Year Environment Plan published earlier this year). The amendment rendered redundant a number of the consultation questions about the environmental principles and their legal standing, though this did not prevent us from hammering home the importance of their inclusion in statue in our response. We were also not deterred in arguing for the new environmental governance body to cover the whole UK, despite the consultation referring exclusively to England. And, of course, we stressed the need for the leadership of this new body to be made up of individuals with professional experience and proven competence in the environmental and sustainability sector. Our work in this area, including our collective work with a number of Licensed Bodies under the banner of the Environmental Policy Forum, is available to read here.

Now that the relatively quiet period of Parliament’s summer recess has since begun, we’re beavering away with website updates, with the welcome assistance of our delightful and diligent intern, Rob Turner. Check out our revamped policy pages here – click and scroll through, and keep an eye out for further updates, as we’ll soon be presenting our report on Greening the Industrial Strategy, which showcases some of our Chartered Environmentalists’ live and leading work in this area.  

Time for a Goodbye

This summer also marks the end of my stretch at the Society, so this is the final policy update from me. My 18 months in this role has been a hugely significant learning experience for me, and a very exciting time in environmental politics and in Parliament in general. It’s been a tough decision to go, and it will particularly difficult to leave the wonderful team at SocEnv HQ – they are the definition of small but mighty! Huge, heartfelt thanks to the team, the wider army of Society volunteers and all the registrants I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with. I hope our paths cross again and, in the meantime, I wish the Society the very best with future plans.

Dr Tatum Matharu - Policy and Parliamentary Lead

Tags:  25 Year Environment Plan  Brexit  Defra  EU Withdrawal Bill  Parliament  Recess 

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The 25 Year Plan Beyond Brexit

Posted By Phil Underwood, 17 April 2018

A policy update by Dr Tatum Matharu, Policy and Parliamentary Lead

The first quarter of 2018 has seen the landmark publication of the Government’s long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan and a flurry of related activity.

The production of the Plan (or 25 YEP), which was formally recommended by the Natural Capital Committee in its March 2014 report, had stalled under a number of changes of Secretary of State at DEFRA, but the Government’s self-styled eco-warrior now at the helm has managed to drag this document out into the limelight and have it publicly launched by the Prime Minister in January. Whilst some may have seen his raft of measures since in post as somewhat ‘tokenistic’, it’s undeniable that Michael Gove has enabled his team at DEFRA to produce a significantly more detailed and wide-ranging 25 YEP than the leaked draft that had been in circulation. 

As ever, the devil is in the detail. And we’re being invited to contribute to that detail through a number of consultations processes. Already open, for example, is a consultation around single-use plastics, which the Government, through the 25 YEP, is attempting to tackle as part of its broader commitment to eliminate all ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042 (and, indeed, all avoidable waste by 2050). Significantly, this consultation focuses specifically on the use of the tax system to steer towards this target and the consultation is being hosted by HM Treasury, indicating a welcome step towards joined-up thinking. You can read our former Chair’s initial thoughts on the 25 YEP and plastics here; and note that the issue of plastic waste also takes centre-stage globally as the theme for this year’s World Environment Day, which we’re celebrating here alongside our Annual Awards and Lectures event on the 5th June (register here). 

Whilst the mainstream media may have concentrated on this particular issue – and rightly, to reflect and enhance public attention on plastic waste – the 25 YEP is a lengthy document that seemingly collects together a multitude of streams and strategies, some planned and some promised, into a single reference point. And, notably, they’re at different stages of fruition, with varying levels of explicit connection to the ongoing Brexit negotiations. In the area of chemicals, for example, the 25 YEP recognises the role of chemicals in air quality, fertilisers for farming and pollution more generally, and states an intention to publish a specific strategy on chemicals, but there is only brief mention of the huge undertaking that will be required in extracting the UK from the EU’s collective chemical regulation system (REACH) and potentially recreating that or otherwise negotiating some form of continued membership to the overseeing body, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), post-Brexit, which the Prime Minister has publicly committed to exploring

We have, alongside colleagues from a number of professional bodies, briefed members of the House of Lords on this area of policy as they discussed amendments to the Brexit Bill on REACH and ECHA. We’ve seen encouraging levels of engagement from the Lords on this and our previous briefing to them on our concerns for the environment raised by the current version of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill more generally. Find out more about these briefings here. We will continue both to work with our colleagues in the Society’s constituent professional bodies and to keep up the pressure in this area together, but please do get in touch with me directly if you’d like to contribute your thoughts into this work, particularly if you work in the chemicals industry and can share your perspective on ‘live’ applications and implications of leaving REACH. 

Otherwise, all eyes are on DEFRA for any word on environmental governance post-Brexit. The Environment Secretary has outwardly accepted the argument made by ourselves as well as many others that governance around environmental matters – that is the public structures and processes of accountability around environmental regulation and legislation – post-Brexit needs much more meaningful and urgent attention. Whilst our calls for an independent body with statutory powers has not (yet) been agreed to, the 25 YEP does commit the Government to opening a consultation on environmental governance. We are, therefore, currently working up the detail of our proposals in preparation for responding to this consultation. Again, your thoughts are welcome so please do get in touch with me directly. 

A final and relatively minor detail of the 25 YEP, but hugely significant for us, is the connection between the 25 YEP and the Industrial Strategy, published by BEIS in November last year. There is a declared link between them and they are triangulated by the Clean Growth Strategy (also published by BEIS in October last year). The links are admirable and certainly nod towards joined-up thinking, but, as yet, any substantive integration of approach is lacking beyond energy and carbon considerations. We’re working to improve understanding in this area. We’re currently compiling a collection of case studies that demonstrates the work of environmental professionals as they simultaneously meet the strategic aims of the environmental and industrial sectors. This showcase report will be the first in a planned series, so there’s still an opportunity to be included in one of the themed follow-ups – get in touch to register your interest. In the meantime, look out for the publication of our first report at our Awards and Lectures on World Environment Day

Dr Tatum Matharu, Policy and Parliamentary Lead


Tags:  25 Year Environment Plan  25YEP  Brexit  DEFRA  Gove  Government  Policy  REACH 

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BEIS, Brexit and the Budget

Posted By Phil Underwood, 13 December 2017
Updated: 13 December 2017

A policy update by Dr Tatum Matharu, Policy and Parliamentary Lead

As expected, autumn has been busy in the Houses and in Whitehall, specifically BEIS, which we turn to first for two major publications: the long-awaited Clean Growth Strategy and the Industrial Strategy White Paper. 

My first update for the Society focused on our response to the Industrial Strategy Green Paper, which was published in January of this year and closed for comments in April. Coming full circle in a year, we’re still left hoping for the circular economy the Industrial Strategy could deliver. It certainly nods to resource efficiency, and even includes this diagram from the excellent Ellen MacArthur Foundation: 

(Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain Fit for the Future: pg. 150)

However, this is overshadowed by the document’s preoccupation with energy efficiency. And the emphasis of energy efficiency in this strategy, alongside its sister strategy of clean growth, is to be welcomed; the purpose of the Industrial Strategy is to increase productivity (and hence improve our economic performance), which would generally result in higher carbon output, which we can’t afford – both in terms of price (a central concern for BEIS) and in terms of the environment (a central concern for us all) – so moves to mitigate our reliance on energy and to decarbonise the economy are certainly appropriate and commendable. As is the apparent integration of energy and clean growth considerations across the White Paper’s ‘five foundations of productivity’ (which, seemingly, have been whittled down from the Green Paper’s 10 pillars). 

We’d still like to see deeper engagement with the concepts of sustainability and resilience across this Industrial Strategy as well as further integrated or ‘joined-up’ thinking and regulation that, whilst being ‘agile’ and ‘simple’, is also fit for (its protective) purpose. But it’s time now to turn attention to (our) practice. I recently held a workshop, facilitated by GK Strategy and their Strategic Adviser, the Rt. Hon. David Laws, during which policy-focused colleagues from our Licensed Bodies and policy-enthused volunteers from our Council came together to decide our policy priorities for 2018 and beyond. The Industrial Strategy, specifically its implementation and how it can be ‘greened’ in practice, came out on top. This could well be the post-Brexit policy intervention of our time; it may not hold the environment front and centre as the 25 year plan will (hopefully), but the reality of economic drivers will prioritise this piece and we can, together, ensure that environmental professionals and their good practice can deliver environmental sustainability and resilience through the range of industrial sectors that make up the UK economy. I’m knee-deep in behind-the-scenes work (and snow!) but watch this space for developments (or get in touch to get involved!). 

But now to present-tense Brexit… Progress here has been sluggish, not only in terms of the high-level negotiations in the headlines but also the EU (Withdrawal) Bill’s delayed return to the Commons, given the hundreds of amendments tabled. This latter delay was, to some extent, welcomed and reassuring as it demonstrates that the Bill could not be simply steamrolled through the democratic process – concerns, including those of environmentalists, were heard and represented. But this does have a knock-on effect and the Society, alongside members of the Environmental Policy Forum, is concerned that time is running out to develop the hundreds of statutory instruments required to have a functioning statue book on exit day. We’ve aired our concerns (read more here), whilst also welcoming the Secretary of State for Defra’s consideration of an Environmental Commission, which should alleviate some of the concerns we’ve previously raised around environmental governance. 

CIWM’s CEO, Dr Colin Church, has helpfully detailed the background of the potential post-Brexit gaps in environmental accountability and governance in the CIWM Journal. And CIEEM have worked up the detail of what is needed to protect and enhance the environment post-Brexit, which includes an independent scrutiny body – OfEnv – and a new Environment Act; read more from Jason Reeves, CIEEM’s Policy Manager, here. The Society continues to work with colleagues at CIWM and CIEEM as well as other Licensed Bodies and beyond under the banner of the Environmental Policy Forum, harnessing and enhancing the weight of our collective influence through its role as secretariat, with our Chair at the helm. This is the main forum for our continued Brexit efforts, so keep up to date using the EPF section of our website.  

Finally, no autumn is complete, now, without our only-annual Budget. We have a brief overview from IEMA (click the links to find out more), and an equally brief but wider perspective from IMechE. Plus, we’ve some deeper analysis from CIOB, and from IES, which takes us back to the Industrial Strategy – our focus for a green 2018. 

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Partnerships, Peers and Perspective

Posted By Phil Underwood, 18 October 2017
Updated: 13 December 2017

A policy update by Dr Tatum Matharu, Policy and Parliamentary Lead.

Parliament returned from its summer recess with its ayes on Brexit. The EU Withdrawal Bill, commonly known as the ‘Repeal Bill’ (and formerly known as the ‘Great Repeal Bill’), had its second reading in the Commons on the 7th September and on the 11th, despite grumbles from within the party of Government and a three-line whip by the Opposition, it passed by 36 votes onto the committee stage, during which MPs will have just eight days of scrutiny. 

It is noteworthy that the European Communities Act 1972, which took us into what became the EU, and the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, which formalised the Treaty of the EU (a.k.a. the ‘the Maastricht Treaty’) into UK law, had 22 and 23 days at committee stage respectively. It seems, therefore, that there’s a relatively tight timeframe to influence MPs in their debates and potential amendments to the Bill, but we struck while the iron was hot. Collaborating with a number of our Licensed Bodies over the summer, we organised our concerns into a briefing hitting the desks of key ministers (Michael Gove at DEFRA and David Davis and Robin Walker at DExEU) as well as every single MP ahead of the vote. Read more, including the briefing and its media coverage, here.  

It’s widely understood that hundreds of amendments are being suggested and circulated amongst MPs for support, so much so that the Bill’s return to Parliament for its committee stage (previously thought to be this week) has now been delayed. Like much else about Brexit, there is a huge degree of uncertainty and a whole lot of watching and waiting for signals that may help strategically to steer a course for sharing environmentalists’ concerns about what happen after Brexit. 

However, who or what to influence is arguably more readily understandable as we can more safely assume that, given our situation of minority government, there are significant opportunities to bring our collective expertise to bear on the full range of parliamentary avenues. Backbench MPs, opposition parties and various committees and groups in both Houses are now extraordinarily significant, as is working in partnership. Indeed, we have recently sent our briefing to a House of Lords select committee that had called for evidence regarding the constitutional implications of the Bill, and we plan to target Peers with our briefing once we have a clearer idea of when the Bill will enter the upper chamber’s debate and scrutiny processes.  

At the same time, it is necessary to keep things in perspective. It is easy to think the Repeal Bill is the only game in town but, whilst it sets up the processes and procedures for our post-Brexit work, the implications of Brexit will be felt in a range of different policy areas as well as the connections between them. It is important for the Society to channel the collective expertise of our registrants to such debates, as we did, for example, by joining a recent discussion hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology on their report regarding the impact of new trade agreements on sustainable food and farming. We will continue to work in such fora and, as ever, we invite your contributions so please do get in touch with me directly if you would like to become more involved. 

Tags:  Environment  EU Withdrawal Bill  Great Repeal Bill  Policy  Repeal Bill  Withdrawal Bill 

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Environmental Professionals Survey 2017

Posted By Phil Underwood, 24 August 2017
Updated: 13 December 2017

A policy update by Dr Tatum Matharu, Policy and Parliamentary Lead.

There have been some huge and surprising political events since our last policy update: a snap general election has been called, fought and won – just about – and a new Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been drafted in. We're now into a two-year parliamentary session dealing with all things 'Brexit', which includes separate Agriculture and Fisheries Bills. But Parliament is currently in its summer recess, so we can afford to take a moment to pause and reflect.  

And what better way to do that than analysing some freshly collated survey data in the sunshine?! Back in January, the Society launched a survey of its registered environmental professionals to find out more about the experience, knowledge and opinions of this diverse group of experts. The survey closed in May and our team has since been reviewing the results. 

We included a number of questions on 'green issues' - salient matters on the environmental policy horizon. Of course, being developed just a few months after the referendum result to leave the EU, the survey asked questions around Brexit, which was not only salient but marked by an even greater degree of uncertainty than now. Asked about the major EU environmental laws to be replaced, we found that respondents' policy priorities were evenly spread. Rated on a scale of 1-10, all the options averaged around 5. The vertical axis of the following chart is stretched around point 5 to magnify the results.

Policy Priorities for Government Post-Brexit

Focusing on the fundamental issue underpinning questions about Brexit next steps, survey respondents were asked about their views on regulation more generally. We found overwhelming support for regulation, both for ‘ordinary people’ and for industry, as these charts demonstrate: 

Environmental Laws for Ordinary People

Environmental Laws for Industry

These views are, of course, subject to change, particularly in light of the significant policy changes on the horizon. The scale and pace of the change post-Brexit has allowed scope for much debate and speculation, and these survey results capture our respondents’ insights at one point in time. 

These results may provide the foundation for more in-depth policy work – for example on the future of environmental regulation – and they will certainly provide the starting point for tracking environmental professionals’ views as they may change over time. 

The Society will conduct its survey of environmental professionals annually, repeating some areas of questioning to generate longitudinal data while also responding to ‘live’ policy issues for greater, and statistically significant, insight.

Keep an eye out for further snippets of our survey results in the coming weeks! The full report will be available for download from our website in mid-September.

The Society would like to thank all of our survey respondents as well as those Licensed Bodies’ members of staff that helped to distribute the survey.

Tags:  Brexit  CEnv  Environmental Professionals  REnvTech  Survey 

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Industrial Strategy Response

Posted By Phil Underwood, 07 June 2017
Updated: 13 December 2017

A policy update by Dr Tatum Matharu, Policy and Parliamentary Lead.


We now have a Policy and Parliamentary Lead in post at the Society, dedicated to delivering our strategic aim of facilitating the collective influence of environmental professionals. Part of this role involves responding to Government consultations and calls for evidence.

One recent example of this relates to the Government’s proposed industrial strategy (before the June 8th election). The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s green paper Building our Industrial Strategy sets out a vision for improving living standards and driving economic growth, however it did not adequately consider the environment in its plans.

We collaborated with our Constituent Bodies to share key messages in our response.

First and foremost, we underlined the need for sustainability in the industrial strategy, emphasising that economic sustainability is predicated on environmental sustainability and that long-term and holistic stewardship of our natural capital is the foundation of sustainable growth.

We called upon the Government to honour its commitments made under the Paris Agreement and Climate Change Act and to demonstrate leadership in working towards implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In light of our forthcoming negotiations in exiting the European Union, we stressed the importance of continued collaboration with our European neighbours, calling for recognition that our common resources are not bound by national borders. 

We repeatedly championed the value of Chartered Environmentalists and Registered Environmental Technicians as competent environmental professionals working across a range of sectors and technical disciplines, who are able to participate in stakeholder engagement activities to ensure that good practice is implemented and the highest environmental standards are upheld.

You can read the Society’s full response here and view wider policy work on our dedicated policy page, including previous responses to consultations.

Dr Tatum Matharu, Policy and Parliamentary Lead

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Tags:  Environment  Industrial Strategy  Policy 

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