The Parliamentary Environment Bill 2020

The Parliamentary Environment Bill is back with a backdrop of more certainty in the form of a new Government majority and the knowledge driven home that we will indeed leave the EU.

The Bill's reintroduction allows the Government to reaffirm its ambition to leave the environment in a better state for future generations. Given existing Government commitments outlined in the 25 Year Environment Plan and, more recently, the legal aim to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, now is an opportune moment to put in place the legislation needed to achieve these aspirations.

What is in the Environment Bill and has it changed since last time?

The answer is it remains largely as before, reflecting the fact that much work from Defra and from a range of stakeholders, had gone into the Bill in its previous iterations. Additions include a ban on exporting our plastic waste to developing countries and regular reviews of international developments in environmental legislation. 

The legislation will create a new environmental governance framework, in part to replace functions carried out by EU institutions. This includes a new green regulator (the Office for Environmental Protection) and a system of long term legal environmental targets and plans.

Government ambitions for the environment point towards a quite different relationship between the economy, society and the natural environment. Farmers and land managers have a crucial part to play in this, but they need the time to prepare to embrace this future. 

What are the Potential Future Changes?

The Bill also includes a series of proposals under the headings Air, Water, Waste & Resources, and Nature. These sections of the Bill are wide-ranging, from small legislative changes to some major transformations.

Among the latter is the introduction to the planning system of biodiversity net gain. This will mean new developments will need to avoid or compensate for any harm to wildlife habitats. The Bill also contains provisions for conservation covenants, allowing landowners to enter private, voluntary agreements to meet conservation objectives on their land. This could be one mechanism to help encourage environmental markets in the future.

The section on water will allow the creation of more Internal Drainage Boards, which is welcome, although there are also provisions to remove some abstraction licenses without compensation.

The Environment Bill Goes Hand in Hand with the Agriculture Bill. 

The Environment Bill sets out the ultimate goal of improving the environment. The Agriculture Bill allows for a key mechanism in achieving this - the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), which aims to reward farmers and land managers for the environmental benefits they provide. 

Of course, any good work for the environment that these two pieces of legislation provide could quickly be undermined if future trade agreements allow imports of products produced to lower environmental standards. 

Our farming clients manage some of the most important and treasured parts of the nation's natural environment, and as such, have a crucial role to play in helping to meet the Government environmental and climate ambitions. While for other sections of the economy the focus will mainly be on minimising negative environmental impacts, land managers are uniquely placed to deliver positive environmental benefits, protecting and improving the natural capital for which they are responsible. 

Contact Land Based Underwriters

Get in touch with the team here at Land Based Underwriters for more information on how the 2020 Parliamentary Environmental Bill will impact farm insurance Brokers and their Clients.