Britain is to introduce legally binding targets in the fight against climate change, the government has announced.
The ambitious move forms part of its Environmental Bill (which will resume its passage through parliament soon) designed to drive significant and lasting environmental improvements, meeting Boris Johnson’s commitment to “build back greener”.
There will be at least one long-term target in four priority areas,the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.
The four priority areas:
Air quality: Targets will be explored focusing specifically on reducing public exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), the air pollutant with the most significant impact on our health, to improve air quality throughout the country
Resource efficiency and waste reduction: Potential targets will look to increase resource productivity and reduce the volume of residual waste and plastic pollution generated
Biodiversity: Targets will be explored to restore and create wildlife-rich habitats in protected sites on land, freshwaters, at sea and in the wider countryside. Species populations will be increased on land and marine biodiversity will be improved
Water: The government will look to set targets to tackle pollution from agriculture and wastewater, as well as a target on water demand to reduce volume
Latest scientific evidence, as it develops, will mean further priority areas and targets can be introduced in the future, to ensure newly emerging issues are tackled.
To keep the commitments on track, the long-term targets will be supported by interim targets laying out the five-year trajectory, and progress will be reported by the government annually.
The Office for Environmental Protection, the new environmental watchdog, will also report annually on the government’s progress in improving the natural environment in accordance with the targets.
George Eustice, environment secretary, 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.”
In order to set the targets, Defra will use a robust, evidence-led process in collaboration with independent experts and stakeholders to ensure they are meaningful and environmental outcome focused.
The targets will build on progress made through the existing commitments in the 25 Year Environment Plan and identify any further gaps for improvement.
A public consultation will take place in early 2022 once proposed targets are developed.