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Policy and Parliamentary Update
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Updates on policy work taking place at the Society for our email newsletter. Updates from February 2019 onwards are from SocEnv's Policy and Communications Officer, Sarah Ridgeon.

 

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August Policy Update

Posted By Sarah Ridgeon, 20 August 2019

August Policy Update

Welcome to the August policy update. As Parliament is now in recess and summer holidays are underway, what better time to catch up on everything that has happened during the last two months! 

It has been an eventful time at Westminster. Following Boris Johnson’s appointment as Prime Minister, the personnel at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has altered, most notably by the departure of Michael Gove as Environment Secretary. We would like to thank Mr Gove for all his hard work during the two years he was in the post and look forward to working with his successor Theresa Villiers to tackle the challenges that lie in front of us. 

One of the key areas of work we would like to highlight from Mr Gove’s tenure is his role in developing the forthcoming Environment Bill. It was therefore good to see him deliver a key update in his final speech in the post, where he committed to ensuring the Bill contains “compelling and comprehensive objectives”. This was a very welcome announcement, as it is only through the presence of long-term targets, milestones and objectives that the principles outlined in the draft Bill are assured weight and credibility. Mr Gove also provided an update on the proposed remit and enforcement powers of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), with some suggestion that the Body may be given the power to enforce climate change law. Regardless of whether this is included in the OEP’s remit, it is crucial that there exists a Body with the capacity to ensure adherence to climate change law. The need for comprehensive targets, milestones and objectives and adequate enforcement of climate change law both featured prominently within our submissions to Government and as signatory to the Broadway Initiative's Assurances for an Environment Act. We will continue to stress the importance of our key asks with influencers and keenly anticipate the publication of the final Bill, expected later this year. Other notable updates in Mr Gove’s speech included confirmation that a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is in development, following the consultation earlier this year

We were also pleased to see the launch of the new All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Nature last month. The APPG “provides a forum for engaging and inspiring parliamentarians and others with the natural world, the major threats that it faces today, and the positives that come from a healthy natural environment.” Barry Gardiner MP was elected as the group’s Chair with Licensed Body of the Society for the Environment, The Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), providing secretariat services to the group. You can find out more about the APPG for Nature via the CIEEM website and using the hashtag #APPGnature on social media. 

Lastly, we are delighted to say that we will be launching a new dedicated website for the Environmental Policy Forum (EPF) next month. The forum, made up of leading environmental organisations and for which the Society acts as Secretariat, seeks to influence environmental policy and its formulation. The website will provide the perfect showcase for the EPF’s work, in particular our policy papers and responses to Government consultations. Make sure to watch this space!


Sarah Ridgeon, Policy and Communications Officer
sarah.ridgeon@socenv.org.uk

Tags:  APPG  Boris  Broadway  Environmental Policy Forum  EPF  Gove  Policy  Prime Minister 

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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
tatum.matharu@socenv.org.uk

 

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

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