Air Clean Up
Greenpeace Finds Loopholes in UK Air and Water Laws
May 02 2020 Read 610 Times
With the government’s new environmental bill currently going through parliament, we have a chance like no other to take control of the future of our planet. The incumbent Conservative Party have made all the right sounds about leaving the natural world in a better state than they encountered it, with the new bill allegedly setting out a 25-year roadmap to do just that.
However, environmental organisation Greenpeace has raised concerns over the integrity and efficacy of the plan. In particular, they have highlighted three “loopholes” which they say the government could exploit in order to avoid implementing plans for meaningful change. Given that the UK’s exit from the EU has gifted us the chance to create a vision for a greener tomorrow, the consequences of not doing so could be catastrophic for future generations.
The targets are not timely enough
The bill plans to set out long-term goals which are legally-binding… but the interim milestones between those goals will not be. That means that theoretically, the Conservatives could establish an ambitious target for 20 years down the line, but leave it entirely up to a future government to do anything about it. Indeed, a target for 2040 might not even represent a valid political concern until 2039.
As a result, there is the distinct danger that the environmental bill will lack the urgency that’s required to tackle the main issues of today. Poor air quality, plastic pollution, the promotion of renewable energies over fossil fuel alternatives and deforestation are just some of many problems which demand immediate attention, but there is no guarantee that the present leaders will take any tangible action on any of them.
Lack of ambition
The government’s track record isn’t great at setting environmental targets. Take air quality, for example. They have twice been sued for the inadequacy of their air pollution plans, which environmental law firm ClientEarth have argued do not go far enough in effectively addressing the problem. What’s more, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) agree with them, since both of those previous prosecution cases have been successful.
Bearing that history in mind, there’s a real danger that when the environmental bill is finally published, it won’t come close to being as ambitious as it needs to be in order to make a difference. Despite their talk of caring for the planet, our leaders could simply be paying lip service to the idea of environmental protectionism to garner votes and escape blame.
Inadequacy of watchdog
While the ECJ has the clout to declare rulings against the government and impose fines, there is no guarantee that the new regulatory body which is being set up – the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) – will command the same power. The finer print details of who will sit on the Office’s board and how they are appointed remain unclear, while the current proposals do not even equip the OEP with the power to impose fiscal charges.
If the new watchdog doesn’t have the teeth to bring public bodies into line, it could run the risk of being virtually useless in all but name. Therefore the new environmental bill must promise real powers for the OEP, as well as complete autonomy for those who run it, if it is to escape criticism of its policies once again.
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