Government to set legally binding targets to combat environmental challenges

Legally binding targets are to be set by ministers to ensure the UK tackles environmental and climate challenges, it has been announced.

The Government has said it will set at least one long-term target in four priority areas – Air quality, resource efficiency and waste reduction, biodiversity, and water.

Introduced in order to underpin the Environment Bill 2020, the targets will also be applied to any future governments.

They will include a promise to take robust action to improve air quality in the UK and to increase resource productivity along with reducing the volume of residual waste and plastic pollution the UK generates.

It will also outline commitments to restore and create wildlife-rich habitats in protected sites, as well as tackling pollution from agriculture and waste water to improve water quality.

A “robust, evidence-led process” supported by independent experts has been pledged by the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) to make sure the targets are “meaningful” and “environmental outcome focused”.

The targets will also be supported by interim targets to ensure the Government stays on track, with annual progress reports to be produced by a new environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection.

Defra has indicated that further priority areas and targets can be introduced to tackle the most pressing or newly emerging issues.

The Government has previously committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with the UK due to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, next year (having been postponed from 2020 because of coronavirus).

Environment Secretary George Eustice said he hoped the new targets would provide certainty to businesses and society.

He said: “The targets we set under our landmark Environment Bill will be the driving force behind our bold action to protect and enhance our natural world – guaranteeing real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today.

“I hope these targets will provide some much-needed certainty to businesses and society, as we work together to build back better and greener.”