Today, the Government introduced a motion to delay the Environment Bill by at least six months. This is yet another delay to legislation the Government had declared as “landmark” and “vital” if the UK is to “maintain and improve our environmental protections as we leave the EU.”

Munira and the Liberal Democrats have expressed their huge disappointment about this delay and have written to Environment Secretary George Eustice to express their concerns and urge the government to prioritise this Bill.

Munira said:

“The Environment Bill is absolutely critical if this Government is serious about tackling the climate emergency. We cannot afford further delay to improve environmental protections whilst biodiversity is declining, people are breathing in dangerously polluted air and we are losing our chance to turn this ecological crisis around.

It is all the more disappointing this Bill will be delayed in the year the UK is hosting the COP26, where we are meant to be demonstrating our international leadership in tackling the climate crisis. This is simply not good enough.

“I will continue to press the Government to do better to protect our environment and leave the world in a better place than we found it. Failing to pass this Bill now means further damage, which we cannot afford during this climate emergency.”

The letter

The text of the letter is below:

Dear George,

We are writing to you to express our disappointment following the motions today to delay the Environment Bill proceedings by at least another six months.

With the UK hosting COP26 and working towards an ambitious outcome at the Convention on Biodiversity this year, this Bill is a chance to demonstrate our international leadership in tackling both the climate and biodiversity crisis.

The Liberal Democrats are already concerned that the target mechanisms were not strong enough, with targets not to be set until 2022 and not reviewed until 2037. With this delay to the passage of the Bill, these targets will be delayed further. The UK’s natural environment cannot wait another year for this political procrastination – this is
an emergency.

The Environment Bill was first introduced on the 15th of October 2019. It was hailed as a “landmark” bill and declared vital legislation to “maintain and improve our environmental protections as we leave the EU”. However, since then your Government has failed to treat it as a priority, particularly given the 200 day delay last year.

Your Government has promised to enable our farmers and land managers to deliver environmental goods through the new Environmental Land Management Scheme, but the failure to prioritise this Bill means they simply do not know what they’ll be rewarded for doing and what targets they’ll be working towards. This uncertainty may lead to more farmers taking early retirement, robbing us of the guardians of our landscapes, the very people we need to tackle climate change and reverse our declining biodiversity.

Even as this letter is being written, our biodiversity is declining, our people are breathing in dangerously polluted air and we are losing our chances at turning this ecological crisis around.

We ask that you and the Government work to actually prioritise this Bill so that these environmental targets can be both set and achieved as soon as possible. We must prevent further damage to our natural environment and biodiversity, rather than agreeing to a delay that the environment simply cannot afford.