CIEH urges new Secretary of State for DEFRA to show greater ambition with environmental protection targets

07 September 2022, Ciaran Donaghy

The first act of the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, was to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle to set out her team of Cabinet Ministers who will carry out the work of her administration. As part of this Cabinet reshuffle, the PM has appointed Ranil Jayawardena as the new Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has urged the new Secretary of State to seize the opportunity to show greater ambition in setting environmental protection targets to demonstrate that the UK is a world leader in the fight against climate change.

The UK government has set out its ambition to tackle climate change in a variety of government strategies, not least its 25 Year Environment Plan. This plan puts targets in place to improve environmental protection by promoting clean air, clean and plentiful water, thriving plants and wildlife, minimising waste among many others.

As part of its ambition to promote clean air, the UK government have committed to significantly reducing the presence of major pollutants. In their recent consultation on Air Quality Targets in the Environment Act, the UK government have proposed a target of reducing PM2.5 to a maximum concentration of 10µg/m3 to be met across England by 2040. This is despite the World Health Organisation updating their own Air Quality guidelines for annual mean concentrations of PM2.5 to be reduced to 5 µg/m3.

CIEH urges the new Secretary of State to seize the opportunity of his new portfolio to show more ambition with respect to our Air Quality targets, both in committing to adhere to the World Health Organisation’s updated guidance and by bringing forward the proposed timeline from 2040 to 2030.

Beyond air quality, the Secretary of State will be tasked with several urgent environmental health issues such as taking action against water companies dumping untreated sewage in our waterways, maintaining the very best food standards as well as ensuring food security as we seek to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Public Affairs of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health said:

“We would like to congratulate Ranil Jayawardena MP on his appointment as the new Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

He takes up this pivotal role at a time when the UK government has recently consulted on establishing legally binding Air Quality targets in the Environment Act. Furthermore, CIEH have also recently submitted our response to his department’s National Air Pollution Control Programme, which consulted on measures aimed at reducing quantities of major air pollutants.

We would urge the new Secretary of State to show greater ambition than has already been shown by going both further and faster in setting a legally binding target of reducing concentrations of PM2.5 to 5 µg/m3 by 2030.

We would also urge the Secretary of State to demonstrate his commitment to maintaining and improving environmental protection standards by taking urgent action against water companies dumping raw sewage in our waterways, and to work closely with the CIEH in ensuring we the UK maintains a best-in-class approach to food standards. Now, more than ever, robust environmental health policies are needed to tackle the urgent issues we face, and the CIEH look forward to working proactively with the new Secretary of State in tackling these urgent issues.”

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