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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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Top tags: Policy  Brexit  25 Year Environment Plan  DEFRA  Environment  Environmental Policy Forum  EPF  EU Withdrawal Bill  Gove  #policy  25YEP  APPG  Boris  Broadway  CEnv  Environment Bill  Environmental Professionals  Government  Great Repeal Bill  Industrial Strategy  Parliament  Prime Minister  REACH  Recess  REnvTech  Repeal Bill  Survey  Withdrawal Bill 

February 2020 Policy Update

Posted By Administration, 27 February 2020

 

 

Following the purdah period and the General Election, it has been pleasing to see developments across environmental policy in recent weeks which has seen the Environment and Agriculture Bills reintroduced to Parliament. This poses significant influencing opportunities for SocEnv and the Environmental Policy Forum (EPF), with these Bills facing legislative scrutiny as they move through Parliament, and the marks just the beginning of what is sure to be a busy year full of policy and legislative developments.

We have begun to build relationships with the new Secretary of State for Defra, George Eustice MP, as well as other new Ministers including the new COP26 President The Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP in the run-up to November. The EPF recently sent letters to new and returning Ministers outlining our key asks from them and Government, including some of our recommendations for environmental targets as enabled by the Environment Bill. Our letter to the Environment Secretary George Eustice can be viewed via the ‘our work’ section of the EPF website: https://www.envpolicyforum.org.uk/our-work.

In late March, the EPF will be holding a workshop in Belfast aimed at ensuring broad engagement and input from the Northern Ireland environmental community. The workshop will focus on the Environment Bill and provide an opportunity to discuss the environmental aspects of future trade arrangements and relationships. To find out more, please contact sarah.ridgeon@socenv.org.uk.

Looking further ahead, SocEnv and the EPF are keen to harness the huge opportunities posed by the 2020 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) and 2020 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), to be held in October and November respectively. With COP26 hosted in Glasgow, the latter in particular is a fantastic opportunity for the UK to showcase its aspirations to be an environmental leader on the international stage – and we would encourage everyone to be part of what is a landmark moment in a key year for the environment.

 

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

Tags:  Environment Bill  Environmental Policy Forum  policy 

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October Policy Update – Reacting to the Environment Bill

Posted By Sarah Ridgeon, 24 October 2019
Updated: 25 October 2019

Welcome to the October policy update.

 

Shaping the new UK Environment Bill has been a major focus for our policy work over the past year – both in terms of Society activity and in our capacity as Secretariat and member of the Environmental Policy Forum (EPF), a network of Professional Bodies working to influence environmental policy and its formulation. We were therefore pleased to see the Bill presented to Parliament by the UK Government earlier this month. We are still in the process of analysing the Bill in full, but welcome key elements of the Bill which reflect some of our biggest asks in ensuring the future of UK environmental standards post-Brexit.

As a signatory to the Broadway Initiative's 'Assurances for an Environment Act' and to EPF submissions to Government, the Society had called for the Bill to include robust targets to give weight and credibility to the Bill’s environmental principles and for the adequate enforcement of climate change law – reflecting what it is a vital element of environmental law and standards.

Earlier this month SocEnv supported an EPF letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock, calling on him to back the inclusion of a number of measures, including the introduction of robust air quality targets. This is reflected in the Bill’s inclusion of a legally binding target on reducing fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the atmosphere, as well as legally binding targets in other areas such as water; biodiversity and resources and waste. It was also great to see the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), the new environmental watchdog, given the responsibility for enforcing climate change law.

The powers outlined in the Bill also lay the framework for the delivery of policies such as a proposed Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain and we await further details on how these will be implemented.

For more insight into recent activity and developments, make sure to catch up with our latest podcast, where we interview Martin Baxter, Chief Policy Adviser at the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), a key figure in the EPF and the Broadway Initiative’s efforts to shape the Environment Bill.

During the Bill’s passage through Parliament, we will continue to work to gain greater clarity on elements where we still have some concern, including the process by which environmental targets are set and the independence of the OEP, which needs to be guaranteed in order to fully hold Government to account.

All EPF submissions are available via our website at https://www.envpolicyforum.org.uk/, where you can also view our latest news, find out more about what we do and sign up for our latest updates!

 

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

 

 

Tags:  EPF  Policy 

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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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Policy Update

Posted By Sarah Ridgeon, 21 February 2019

February Policy Update

 It has been a busy two months for environmental policy! In these turbulent political times, now more than ever it is vital for the voices of environmental professionals to be heard by key decision makers.

The Environmental Policy Forum (EPF) - made up of leading environmental organisations and for which the Society acts as Secretariat - has been working hard over the last few months to ensure its 2019 aims are met. 

One of the Forum’s leading aims has been to help shape the contents of the final Environment Bill, due to be published this summer. As part of the delivery of this aim, the EPF responded to the EFRA and EAC Inquiry into the Scrutiny of the Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill. While welcoming the government’s ambition and stated commitment to improving environmental standards, the Forum’s submission also cited concerns regarding the independence and enforcement powers of the proposed Environmental Watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). For the EPF, the current proposals raise serious questions over the OEP’s ability to hold government to account. To address these concerns, the EPF called for the OEP to be moved away from Government and closer to Parliamentary scrutiny. To aid enforcement of the principles, the Forum would also like to see the OEP be able to take cases of non-compliance to the First Tier Tribunal. As it stands, the Bill provides the OEP only with the ability to take cases to Judicial Review, which as a legal option has significant limitations. You can view the EPF’s submission here. The Society also made its own response to the Inquiry, which can be viewed here


Another of the Forum’s key aims is to highlight the views of the environmental profession by responding to key Government consultations. This month the EPF made a submission to the Government’s consultation on introducing mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain. Under the proposals, a development project would need to ensure it delivers an overall net gain in biodiversity before planning permission is granted. Overall, the Forum welcomed the proposals, agreeing with the Government that they will help to standardise practices across local authorities. Nevertheless, the EPF called for greater detail to be provided on several elements of the proposals, including how the tariff system will work in ensuring sufficient compensation for failure to deliver Net Gain. The response also stressed the importance of involvement of key stakeholders in all stages of the process, providing insight and expertise in consultation and helping ensure effective delivery of the proposals. The full EPF submission can be viewed here

Looking forward over the next couple of months, the EPF will continue to strive to influence the contents of the final Environment Bill, including via our links with the Broadway Initiative. In addition, the Forum will be considering the first series of consultations attached to the Resources and Waste Strategy- just announced- as well as assessing the latest developments in Agriculture and Fisheries Bills as they reach report stage in the House of Commons. 

 

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

 


More information on the Environment Bill can be found via the GOV.UK website

You can also find out more about the EPF, including its member organisations, here 


Tags:  Policy 

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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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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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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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