The Environment Bill Enters Committee Stage
The Environment Bill is starting its Committee Stage in the House of Lords with amendments debated on significant issues including pesticides, soil health and supply chains for consideration.
What’s included in the current Environment Bill?
- New Office of Environmental Protection, to hold the government to account on environmental standards.
- Commitment to set targets for air quality, water, resource use, waste and nature.
- Plastic bag tax.
- Household compost recycling.
- Nature recovery plans.
- Provisions to tackle deforestation associated with certain commodities entering the UK.
The new Bill, which will impact mostly in England, seeks to set out a new approach to environmental law bearing in mind that so many of the rules were previously set at EU level.
It’s full of potential but needs significant changes, With 75% of our land being farmed, targets that will help transform farming are vital.
There are a number of tabled amendments which the Soil Association will be urging Peers to support including on soils, pesticides, and nature targets. It is important these receive approval if the Government is to demonstrate commitment to a greener future. These amendments propose:
- Inclusion of the word soil in the definition of 'natural environment'. Currently, the Environment Bill lists land (except buildings or other structures), air and water, and the natural systems, cycles, and processes through which they interact but there is no mention of soil here which is an important omission.
- A legally, time-bound State of Nature target.
- Stopping pesticide use near schools and homes.
Gareth Morgan, Soil Association Head of Farming & Land Use Policy, said:
“The Environment Bill contains many welcome provisions. However, there are some glaring gaps that these amendments would help to plug. We are trying to ensure the House of Lords approve these amendments and if they do we will be urging our supporters to lobby their MPs in autumn to back the changes”
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.
When the new Government formed, the Bill restarted its passage through Parliament, where it was scrutinised by MPs from all parties, and subject to challenge.
It has now moved into the House of Lords for scrutiny and amendments to the proposed legislation, after which it will return to the House of Commons before receiving 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 Act, we are determined to see measures for soil, pesticide reduction, and targets for nature included in the Environment Bill. In the UK 75% of our land is farmed, so the Environment Bill needs to include measures that will support a wholesale transition in farming.