News / Sustainable farming policy

The Environment Bill delayed – time to improve it?

The announcement two weeks ago that finishing the Environment Bill - has been delayed caused huge dismay in the environment community.

chalk Stream, UK Credit V Hird

chalk Stream, UK Credit V Hird

The Bill was first promised in mid 2018 and has been lumbering through parliament making slow but some progress. At the recent MP committee stage many Alliance members, such as the RSPB, were lobbying hard to amend the Bill.

Now it has been delayed a further 6 months as the government says there is no time to pass it in this parliamentary session. This continued delay in setting a strong regulatory framework for prortecting our environment is hugely regrettable. The fact that this coincides with our hosting of the critical Climate COP in Glasgow in December of this year sends out unhelpful signals in terms of green leadership.

Vicki Hird, Head of Sustainable Farming, says

With 70% of land farmed this Bill will be critical is setting out how farmers protect nature and the environment but this delay means there will be a serious lack of clarity to an already crowded basket of uncertainties for them. To plan their farm business and make any investments or changes needed, farmers and landowners needed to have a clear regulatory framework and know the targets the government are aiming for in terms of environmental protections and improvements. Such unnecessary delays are hugely unhelpful and potentially highly damaging.

However this does provide more time to build up pressure to improve the Bill and iron out the weaknesses in the current version. There have been calls to make it far stronger and the new regulatory body it legislates for, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), more independent of government and to boost other provisions that will lead to more sustainable farming outcomes.

Ruth Chambers of the Green Alliance notes it needs strengthening in 3 key areas – legally binding targets to better protect air, water, nature and on waste. It needs to have stronger independent oversight via a better new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) with parliament having oversight of the board and budget. Finally it needs to enshrine strong environmental principles in law such as the precautionary principle and polluter pays.  

There are amendments laid down by MPs on these areas so there is time now to build pressure to get them passed. The recent Dasgupta Review of Biodiversity and the economy makes it clear we need to do far more to protect nature for our own sakes saying “long-term prosperity relies on rebalancing our demand of nature's goods and services” and this Bill should be ensuring regulations underpin our new relationship with nature.

Do follow the Green Alliance @GreenAllianceUK who are working closely on this Bill.


Sustainable farming policy: Sustain encourages integration of sustainable food and farming into local, regional and national government policies.

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