‘Environment nearing dangerous tipping points’

An independent watchdog is calling on the government to step up environmental protection

Pathway to COP26 report

The environment is approaching a dangerous level of uncertainty and existing laws in the UK are failing to combat this.

That’s the claim of independent watchdog, Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), which is calling for urgent action from the government to up the speed of progress on its 25 Year Environment Plan.

Net zero and environment should both be treated with the same level of importance, the OEP stresses.

The watchdog was launched last year to scrutinise the government, along with public bodies on environmental action.

It has provided six ‘building blocks’ that it believes will be critical to ensuring laws and ambition align in a way that will successfully protect England’s natural landscapes.

These are having a good understanding of environmental pressures, a coherent vision, setting targets, having a strategy and policy framework that promotes these, governance on the issue and a monitoring and reporting system to track progress.

“Government must aim high, act with greater expediency and plan well for a sustainable environment – and give this crisis the priority it needs,” explains Dame Glenys Stacey, Chair of the OEP.

‘Robust evaluation’ is considered key if progress is to be made, with all government departments coming together on the issue and keeping each other in check.

The OEP claims we are hitting ‘tipping points’, whereby some declines and degradation becomes irreversible and that change to policy and action must be immediate or it will be too late.

Some of these ‘tipping points’ include a decline in fish stock, as well as the widespread use of nutrients on farmland.

Dame Stacey continues: “Our argument is that with the resources that are already available to government, for protecting, restoring and enhancing the environment, a much better job could be done, if the building blocks that we highlight are considered.”

“If there is a persistent effort and a real attention to prioritisation in relation to environmental matters, we’ll get a long way,” she reassured.

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, commented: “We welcome this report, which acknowledges that our Environment Act gives us new tools to make a real difference to our environment, putting it at the heart of government and transitioning us to a sustainable future with nature on the road to recovery during this decade.

“Six months on from the Act gaining Royal Assent, we are currently consulting on legally-binding environmental targets which include a world-leading target to halt species decline by 2030.

“We have launched a consultation to deliver the largest programme in history to tackle storm sewage discharges and we have taken action to transform the way that we deal with waste.”

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