What it means for food and farming sustainability
On 27 June 2019, the government acted to address climate change by setting a target to reach net-zero emissions, making the UK the first major economy to do so. The Environment Bill is the next step in the government response to the scientific case, and growing demand, for a change in environmental protection and recovery.
The Bill leaves scope for amendments to two pieces of legislation retained in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) Regulation regulates the manufacture, placing on the market and use of chemicals and the REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 set out how the requirements of the REACH Regulation are enforced. This may result in subsequent changes to chemical use in the food and farming sectors as the legislation is updated in response to emerging needs or ambitions for the effective management of chemicals.
This Environment Bill will provide for the creation of new internal drainage boards to manage local water levels and flood risk. The internal drainage boards are funded by the communities they serve. The Bill amends the Land Drainage Act 1991 to facilitate updates to the calculations to correctly apportion expenses between agricultural landowners (via drainage rates) and local authorities (via the special levy). Since internal drainage boards are funded locally new boards will only be established where there is local support.
The Bill also reforms elements of abstraction licensing to align it with the 25 Year Environment Plan goal of restoring water bodies to as close to a natural state as possible. It allows the variation or revocation of abstraction licences without the regulator being liable to compensate the licence holder under certain conditions.
The Environment Bill will ensure that all businesses are adopting legitimate waste management practices with the introduction of an electronic waste tracking system. It will also delegate greater powers to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to combat waste crime; improving access to evidence, powers of entry and granting the ability to keep fixed penalty notices appropriate.
The Bill aims to support and enable landowners and managers, developers, local government and conservation organisations to work together to create or restore wildlife-rich habitats to enable wildlife to recover and thrive. It allows landowners to make long term, legally binding commitments to conservation. A conservation covenant is a private, voluntary agreement between a landowner and a ‘responsible body’ intended to conserve the environment and ensure the delivery of health and social benefits.