The government has unveiled plans for a new world-leading environmental watchdog to underpin a new system of ‘green’ governance once Britain leaves the EU.
The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will uphold environmental legislation and is one of the major announcements from the latest draft of the new environment bill, the first of its kind for 20 years.
Under the new plan, the OEP will be able to take legal action to enforce the implementation of environmental law after Brexit, a job currently done by the European Commission.
The second significant addition to the new bill is the ‘environmental principles’, such as the ‘polluter pays’, or that the public should be able to participate in environmental decision-making.
Environment minister Michael Gove said: “Our ambition is to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than that in which we found it. We will keep building on our successes by enhancing our environmental standards and delivering a Green Brexit.”
Think tank Green Alliance said the bill’s ambitions were laudable but warned that the OEP’s so-called independence is a “mirage”, as members and funding will be appointed by government.
In a blog post responding to the news, the Green Alliance’s Ruth Chambers, said: “Government policy will be underpinned by a guiding set of environmental principles such as the need to act with precaution and that the polluter should pay. This is welcome but there are too many get out clauses in how these principles will be applied: they won’t apply to any public spending decision or ‘any other matter’ specified by government.
“Any system is only as good as its component parts and while the government has set out a laudable path for ambition, there is still a long way to go to embed this in law and to deliver the step change that people and the environment need.”