The UK Government has set out how it intends to use legally binding targets under its landmark Environment Bill to combat environmental challenges and climate change.

The UK Government says it will introduce at least one long-term target in four priority areas to ‘drive significant and lasting environmental improvements’: cleaner air, cleaner water, less waste and more biodiversity.

It says further priority areas and targets can be introduced at a later date, informed by the ‘latest scientific evidence’.

"The targets we set under our landmark Environment Bill will be the driving force behind our bold action to protect and enhance our natural world – guaranteeing real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today"

UK Government hopes these long-term targets targets will ensure both this and future governments continue to deliver a ‘truly green recovery’.

Interim targets will also be put in place which will set out government’s five-year trajectory, progress of which will be updated annually.

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The four priority areas, and proposed objectives for targets, include:

  • Air quality: To support our robust action to improve air quality across the country, we will explore targets focusing specifically on reducing public exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), the air pollutant that has the most significant impact on our health.
  • Resource efficiency and waste reduction: Potential targets will look to increase resource productivity and reduce the volume of residual waste and plastic pollution we generate.
  • Biodiversity: We will explore targets to restore and create wildlife-rich habitats in our protected sites on land, in freshwaters and at sea and in the wider countryside, and to increase species populations on land and improve marine biodiversity.
  • Water: We will also look to set targets to tackle pollution from agriculture and waste water to improve water quality, as well as a target on water demand to reduce the volume that is abstracted.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The targets we set under our landmark Environment Bill will be the driving force behind our bold action to protect and enhance our natural world – guaranteeing real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today.

“I hope these targets will provide some much-needed certainty to businesses and society, as we work together to build back better and greener.”

In a statement, Defra also said the Environment Bill will resume its passage through parliament ‘as soon as possible’.

Robust, evidence-led process

UK Government says these targets – which will also apply to any future governments – will be established using a ‘robust, evidence-led process’ in collaboration with independent experts and stakeholders.

It’s intended that these targets will identify further gaps for improvement to tackle some of the serious environmental challenges faced today.

To hold the UK Government to account, the new environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, will also report annually on the progress that has been made in improving the natural environment in accordance with these targets.

Once proposed targets are developed, businesses, communities and civil society will have an opportunity to share their views in response to a public consultation that is expected in early 2022.

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