Conservative election victory clears path for Environment Bill


The bill sets out plans to establish an independent Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution, and preserve wildlife.

Introduced in October, it had cross-party support, and was primed to be passed into law at the time of Parliament’s dissolution. It is now hoped the bill will be enacted rapidly into law.

The Conservatives have proposed environmental measures less radical than those of their counterparts, with the Greens pledging to borrow £100b to tackle the climate emergency, and Labour promising to make almost all of the UK’s 27m homes energy-efficient.

However, the 2019 Conservative manifesto suggests environmental concerns will be at the heart of the new government’s strategy.

The party has pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 by investing in clean energy and green infrastructure, and to prioritise the environment in the next budget.

Its manifesto lays out promises to introduce a plastics tax to increase the proportion of recyclable plastics in packaging, and phase in extended producer responsibility (EPR) and deposit return schemes (DRS).

The Conservatives have also said they will ban the export of plastic waste to non-OECD countries, increase penalties for fly-tipping, and boost domestic recycling programmes.

Further environmental measures promised in the party’s manifesto include funding electric vehicle infrastructure, developing the UK’s offshore wind industry, and investing £9.2b in the energy efficiency of homes, hospitals, and schools over the next decade.

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said: “We look forward to working with the new Government to push ahead once more with the raft of once-in-a lifetime environmental legislation.

“[The Environment Bill’s] swift enactment offers the capacity to unlock the regulations required to secure the investment needed by our sector to bring about wholesale reforms that will enable industry, local authorities and consumers to make sustainable decisions about the products they manufacture, buy, use and discard.

“We stand willing to continue to support the development of an EPR scheme that fulfils the polluter pays principle and that will in turn allow for the vital shift to greater consistency in waste and recycling collections, clearer labelling of goods for recycling and deposit return schemes for plastic bottles and cans.

“This clear working parliamentary majority allows us to continue on our transformational journey to convert the 60 million tonnes of waste in the system today into 60 million tonnes of resources, benefitting both our fragile environment and UK industrial performance.”

Jacob Hayler, Executive director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), added: “This landslide election result hopefully signals continuity, for the resources and waste sector, along the path set out by the previous Conservative government, which promised to radically change the way we view and deal with waste in this country.

“We would like to see the new Conservative government quickly rekindle the legislative programme introduced under the Environment Bill in the autumn, so that progress can be made against the Resources and Waste Strategy, and we can make up for lost time.

“We will wait to find out who will oversee this process as secretary of state at Defra – noting that the incumbent Defra leadership team of Theresa Villiers and Rebecca Pow both retained their seats in parliament – but we look forward to working with whoever is selected in due course.”

The new parliament will first sit on Monday 16 December, when appointments will be finalised by Johnson.

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