COMMONS

25-Year Environment Plan inquiry launched

01 February 2018

The Environmental Audit Committee launches a short inquiry into the Government’s 25-Year Plan for the Environment.

The inquiry

The Government published its long-awaited 25-Year Plan for the Environment on 11 January 2018. The Committee’s inquiry will examine key decisions around the Plan’s overall ambition and approach.

Strategies

The Plan sets out a number of 25-year goals and a combination of new and existing strategies, targets, mechanisms and commitments in order to meet those goals. The Government proposes to update the Plan every 5 years and to report annually on progress to Parliament. The Government will develop a set of indicators to monitor progress.

The Committee is likely to hold one oral evidence hearing, followed by a hearing with the Government. The Committee will also scrutinise the Plan’s proposals in specific areas as part of its regular work programme.

Environmental protections

Mary Creagh, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

"My Committee has been clear that environmental protections must not be weakened as a result of leaving the European Union. EU laws which protect our natural spaces and native species risk becoming zombie legislation, and my Committee has previously called for a new Environmental Protection Act that enshrines targets on waste, water quality and air pollution in law.

We will look at how the Government intends to make the plan a reality, and whether the targets and timeframes are ambitious enough.

It is crucial that current targets aren’t dropped or missed, that legal protections are not weakened, and Government departments aren’t let off the hook."

Terms of Reference

The Committee welcomes submissions by 5 pm on 28th February 2018 on some or all of the following points:

Ambition and Reporting

  • To what extent does the Plan set a sufficiently ambitious agenda across Government? How far do the objectives, targets and indicators set out in the plan reflect a higher level of ambition than existing targets (including European Union targets and the Sustainable Development Goals) and current performance? Are there any major gaps?
  • What would success or failure look like for the Plan? To what extent will the Government’s proposals for reporting on the Plan allow for proper scrutiny of its performance against its objectives? Are the commitments to legislative action in the Plan sufficient to ensure it will endure beyond the current Parliament?

Implementation

  • The Plan sets out a natural capital-led approach and a principle of “environmental net gain” when undertaking development. What are the risks and benefits of adopting these approaches? What steps need to be taken during development and implementation to ensure they lead to positive environmental outcomes, especially in respect of biodiversity?
  • To what extent does the Plan set out effective delivery mechanisms to ensure DEFRA, other Government departments and public bodies have the resources and responsibilities to implement it? Where should the Government seek agreement with the Devolved Institutions to ensure a common approach across the UK?

Principles and Oversight

  • The Government has proposed an independent statutory body to “champion and uphold environmental standards as we leave the European Union”. What role, legal basis and powers will it need to ensure the Government fulfils its environmental obligations and responsibilities? How do these compare to the role of the European Institutions in the existing arrangements? What standard would it have to meet to be “world leading”?
  • The Plan sets out a series of objectives and the Government says it will consult on a policy statement on environmental principles to underpin policy-making after leaving the European Union. What principles should the Government include as part of that consultation? What legislation might be needed?

Deadline for submissions

Written evidence should be submitted through the inquiry page by 5pm on 28th February 2018. The word limit is 3,000 words. Later submissions will be accepted, but may be too late to inform the first oral evidence hearing. Please send written submissions using the form on the inquiry page.

Diversity

The Committee values diversity and seek to ensure this where possible. We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence. We aim to have diverse panels of Select Committee witnesses and ask organisations to bear this in mind if asked to appear.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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