Government ministers will aim to put protecting the environment at the heart of future policy, under new plans set out today (Wednesday, March 10).

The Environment Bill will create a duty on ministers across Whitehall to be guided by five internationally recognised environmental principles when making policy – protecting the environment for the next generation and demonstrating to the world that the environment is at the front and centre of the government’s work, ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We want to embed the environment in the design, development and delivery of the government’s work.

Our environmental principles are essential, and will ensure that ministers across Whitehall are guided to not just protect the environment, but tackle problems at their origin.

“This will deliver our pledge to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.”

5 environmental principles

This legally binding statement will introduce five environmental principles, committing the government to building back greener:

These principles are:

  • The ‘integration principle’ states that policy-makers should look for opportunities to embed environmental protection in other fields of policy;
  • The ‘prevention principle’ means that government policy should aim to prevent, reduce or mitigate harm;
  • The ‘rectification at source principle’ means that if damage to the environment cannot be prevented it should be tackled at its origin;
  • The ‘polluter pays principle’ says those who cause pollution or damage to the environment should be responsible for mitigation or compensation;
  • The ‘precautionary principle’ states that where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

There is no pathway to tackling climate change that does not involve the recovery and protection of nature, according to the government.

The government is consulting on the draft policy statement on the five environmental principles which sets out how they should be interpreted and proportionately applied.

The policy statement will guide ministers across government departments towards opportunities to prevent environmental damage whilst supporting innovation and sustainable development.