What will happen to our environmental legislation?

As a country, we are going through a large period of change – I’m sure you’ll have noticed the political headlines flip flopping between Brexit and the environmental campaigns championed by Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion.

These ever-moving parts are clearly interesting to the thousands of people who have been hitting the streets to have their say and make a stand, but it’s also of great interest to us here at Earthworm.

Protecting the environment is at the heart of our business, and the political environment we do that in can be an important factor.

We invest in and support businesses and ideas that will have a positive impact on the environment. We seek out ambitious business owners with amazing ideas that make improvements to recycling rates, reducing water use and developing cleaner sources of energy – among other things.

Companies that we invest in often need to manage environmental risks in their projects, for example waste management. So we help them understand environmental legislation and make sure they know what they need to do to be compliant. As part of this, we engage with government departments and regulators to keep up to speed with current regulations.

One public concern is that if Britain was no longer controlled by EU laws, would that lead to reduced standards and less environmental protection?

This uncertainty makes it more complex for us to advise our investee companies on how they should develop and grow. So when a new Environment Bill was announced in the recent Queen’s Speech, I was pleasantly surprised.

The headline promises of the Bill are to:

  • Set up a new independent watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, to hold government and other public bodies to account on fulfilling their obligations on the environment
  • Extend producer responsibility schemes to follow up the success of tax on plastic bags
  • Tackle the problems of littering and organised waste gangs
  • Improve air quality by setting targets to limit emissions of fine particulate matter
  • Deliver sustainable water resources by ensuring cooperation across water company boundaries
  • Introduce the need to demonstrate biodiversity net gain to the planning system.

Although there are no guarantees that the Bill will pass, its good intentions were well received and a lot of media channels reported support for its ambition and forward thinking.

The next step is to turn these good intentions into effective actions and, although there is uncertainty, the growing commitment to improving environmental issues is clear. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will commit to a legally binding commitment for non-regression of environmental standards after Brexit – which was reiterated by representatives of Defra and the Environment Agency at a Brexit briefing on 29 October. The session also confirmed that legislation has been written to ensure the current regulatory regime would remain in force in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

So with the assurance that current environmental legislation will remain intact whatever the outcome of Brexit, we can all look ahead to the general election coming up in December. With two thirds of people agreeing that climate change is the biggest issue facing humankind, and more than half the people asked in this poll saying climate change would affect how they would vote, it’s looking good.

Gary

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