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Soil restoration and pesticide reduction a gaping hole in Westminster Environment Bill

Soil restoration missing from new Bill

The long awaited, new Environment Bill has today (30th January 2020) returned to Parliament, and promises a Government commitment to reduce environmental impact, tackle climate change and restore nature.

What’s included in the Environmental Bill?

  • New Office of Environmental Protection, to hold the government to account on environmental standards
  • Commitment to a legal target for air, water, resource use, waste and nature
  • Plastic bag tax
  • Household compost recycling
  • Nature recovery plans

Read the full Environment Bill and what’s included here.

The new Bill will replace the 80% of environmental law currently set at EU level which will cease to operate at the end of 2020 following the UK's exit from the EU.

We welcome legally binding targets on biodiversity and the establishment of the new Office of Environmental Protection, as well as the focus on, air quality, water, resource efficiency and waste management.

It’s full of potential but, the Environmental Bill needs to be more ambitious

There are some crucial omissions to the Bill that are essential if the Government are truly committed to a greener future.

  • The restoration of soil needs to be at its heart
    Healthy soil is core to sustainable farming and plays an important role in tackling climate change by storing carbon and supporting wildlife. We want to see binding targets for soil recovery and effective ways to ensure soil health is monitored and prioritised, to give farmers confidence to invest in measures to maintain and protect this precious resource.

  • There needs to be a target on the reduction of pesticide use
    Reducing our pesticide use in farming is essential if we’re to reverse the huge decline in insects and biodiversity.

  • We need to radically increase trees on farms
    Known as agroforestry, planting more trees on farms is crucial to increasing wildlife, improving soil health and animal welfare whilst also combatting climate change.

Gareth Morgan, Soil Association Head of Farming & Land Use Policy, said:

“There is a gaping hole in the Environment Bill where soil restoration should be.

“After concerted lobbying, we were delighted to see soil recognised in the Agriculture Bill, but given that it has huge capability to lock up carbon, and the government itself reports that soil degradation is costing the UK £1.2bn annually, soil should also be at the heart of this bill.

“Targets for the reduction of pesticide use, and an increase in agroforestry, would help farmers to tackle the climate and nature crises, by enabling the necessary shift to nature-friendly, agroecological farming like organic. Without them, the government will be unable to keep its promises for a so-called ‘green Brexit’ that enables us to achieve net zero carbon emissions and restore nature.”

Understanding the Environment Bill

The Environment Bill was previously introduced in a draft format at the end of 2018, and then put to parliament in October 2019. But it was put on hold due to the calling of a General Election in December 2019.

As a new Government has now formed the Bill can restart its passage through Parliament, where it will be scrutinised by MPs from all parties, and subject to challenge.  

It will then move into the House of Lords for scrutiny and amendments to the proposed legislation, after which it will receive Royal Assent, at which point it becomes law.

Our work to influence the Environment Bill

Having secured soil as worthy of government support in the Agriculture Bill, we are determined to see targets for soil and pesticides reduction established, and we aren’t stopping now.

The Agriculture Bill is on a parallel journey to the Environment Bill, both are in their passage through Parliament, and are interlinked as many aspects of farming are controlled and influenced by environmental regulations, targets and measurements. In the UK 75% of our land is farmed, so farming has a major influence on environmental outcomes.

Find out more about our campaigns and influencing work.