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Long-awaited Environment Bill brings disappointment over ‘squandered chances’

Positive measures include banning sale of compost containing peat but WHO standards on air pollution have not been adopted.
27 May 2021 , Katie Coyne

The Environment Bill finally returned to the House of Commons yesterday (26 May) for its report stage and third reading after facing multiple delays.

But campaigners were left disappointed after a number of amendments were voted down by the Conservatives. The government described the bill as “ambitious” but many campaigners felt it did not do enough.

CIEH was “deeply disappointed” that WHO standards on air pollution were not adopted and will be calling on peers to raise this issue when the Bill goes to the Lords.

CIEH President Julie Barratt said: “The recent coroner’s report attributing the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah partially to air pollution should be a wakeup call. Action has to be taken.”

Earlier this month Westminster unveiled a number of positive environmental measures, some of which will be delivered through the Environment Bill. An amendment to the Bill, for example, should include a legally binding target to reduce species decline by 2030.

The government also announced plans to ban the sale of compost containing peat in garden centres, treble tree planting in England and create new community forests, and the establishment of a taskforce to reintroduce native species lost to England such as wildcat.

However, there was disappointment that a number of proposals were not taken on board in the Environment Bill such as a ban on fracking, and there were concerns government amendments to habitat rules could actually put wildlife at risk.

Friends of the Earth tweeted that the legislation was “riddled with loopholes that fail to protect green spaces, air quality or wildlife”.

Caroline Lucas, the UK’s first Green MP, tweeted that it was “such a wasted opportunity. The first UK wide Environment Bill in 25 years should be so much more ambitious.

“UK is one of most nature depleted countries in world, yet ministers have recklessly squandered chance to expand protections for nature and wildlife.”

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