The government has announced that its comprehensive Environment Bill has been passed into law.

These changes will be driven by new legally-binding environmental targets, and enforced by a new, independent Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) that will hold government and public bodies to account on their environmental obligations.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

“The Environment Act will deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth.

It will halt the decline of species by 2030, clean up our air and protect the health of our rivers, reform the way in which we deal with waste and tackle deforestation overseas.

“We are setting an example for the rest of the world to follow.”

Reversing species decline

The Environment Act includes a new, legally-binding target on species abundance for 2030, which will help to reverse declines of iconic British species like the hedgehog, red squirrel and water vole.

The government said that the UK will now be able to go further than ever before to clamp down on illegal deforestation and protect rainforests, through a package of measures will ensure that greater resilience, traceability and sustainability are built into the UK’s supply chains.

The government said that the Act will crack down on water companies that discharge sewage into rivers, waterways and coastlines.

It will see a duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows.

New duties will also require the government to publish a plan to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows by September 2022 and report to parliament on the progress towards implementing the plan.