Soil health must be included in the Environment Bill
With COP26 round the corner, the Commons vote on Environment Bill amendments is a critical test of whether the UK truly means business on the climate crisis.
The Environment Bill returns to the Commons with an important amendment on soil health to be considered after its time in the House of Lords.
The Bill, which will impact mostly 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.
With 75% of our land being farmed, targets that will help transform farming are vital.
The Soil Association will be urging MP's to vote through an amendment on soil health.
The amendment tabled by Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, rightly places “soil health and quality” as one of the Bill’s priority areas for the setting of long-term environmental targets. It was passed by Peers on Monday 6th September, by 209 against 166.
Gareth Morgan, Soil Association Head of Farming & Land Use Policy, said:
“The Environment Bill contains many welcome provisions. However, the omission of soil was a glaring gap. We are trying to ensure MP's approve these amendments by urging our supporters and broader members of the public to lobby their MPs."
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.
Following its progress through the House of Lords where it was scrutinised and new amendments proposed, it now returns to the House of Commons before receiving Royal Assent, at which point it becomes law.
What’s otherwise included in the 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.
Our work to influence the Environment Bill
Having secured soil as worthy of government support in the Agriculture Act, (allowing farmers to be incentivised to improve soils through the new Sustainable Farming Incentive) we are determined to see protective 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.