Environmental activists expressed displeasure after the government confirmed it would reject nearly all changes made to the environmental law by the House of Lords.
The changes included increased protection for ancient woodlands and a legal obligation for water companies to reduce wastewater damage to rivers.
Municipalities will discuss later whether to accept the Lords amendments.
However, without the support of ministers they are likely to be rejected by parliamentarians.
The Greener UK coalition said the government’s decision was “extremely disappointing”, especially ahead of this month’s COP26 climate summit.
But the government said it would present its own changes to the bill to demonstrate “global leadership” ahead of the Glasgow conference.
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The government says the bill, released in 2019, is designed to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution, restore wildlife and protect the climate.
Some of its measures only apply to England, or England and Wales, but there are a number of UK-wide provisions.
The law establishes a new independent supervisory body – the Environmental Protection Office – to monitor progress in improving the environment.
As the bill passed in the House of Lords, colleagues voted for an amendment that sought to strengthen the watchdog’s powers.
They also voted to reverse a move by the government to exempt defense, national security and fiscal policy from the obligation to consider environmental principles when making policies.
Other cross-cutting amendments would put a binding deadline to reduce harmful particles in the air to WHO levels by 2030 and force the government to achieve intermediate environmental goals, as well as long-term ones.
However, on Tuesday, Environment Secretary George Eustice formally recommended MPs to reject nearly all proposals.
Ruth Chambers of the Greener UK coalition said the decision was “extremely disappointing”.
However, he welcomed the government’s decision to compromise on a Lords amendment, allowing tariffs for single-use plastic bags to be extended to other single-use items.
‘Status quo of inertia’
The Surfers Against Sewage campaign group said it is “surprising that, in this environmentally critical decade, the government is giving up amendments designed to better protect the planet and all its precious inhabitants.
“Instead of facing the challenge and the opportunity to truly be the greenest and most progressive nation, they seem to side with a status quo of inaction.”
Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB, accused the government of “failing to fulfill its commitment to leave the natural environment in a better state than it inherited.”
He urged the government to commit to “the goal of halting and reversing the loss of our wildlife, with binding regular milestones so that we can all see the progress being made.”
COP26 Climate Summit – The Basics
- Climate change is one of the most pressing problems in the world. Governments must promise more ambitious gas cuts for warming if we are to prevent greater global temperature rises.
- The Glasgow Summit is where change could happen. You have to watch out for the promises made by the world’s biggest polluters, such as the United States and China, and whether the poorest countries are getting the support they need.
- All our lives will change. Decisions made here could impact our work, how we heat our homes, what we eat and how we travel
Read more about the COP26 Summit here.
A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the “relevant” bill “will transform the way we protect our natural environment, make better use of our resources and clean up our air. and water “.
“It is imperative that the bill completes its passage into law as soon as possible, so that we can honor our commitment to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.”
The department also pointed to new measures it added to the bill aimed at protecting the aquatic environment from untreated wastewater, including requiring water companies to monitor the impact of sewage discharges.
The government is under pressure to get the bill passed, having previously said it would become law before COP26 began on Oct.31.
Speaking with July, Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith suggested that delaying the bill could mean “weakening our hand in these extraordinarily important climate and environmental negotiations.”
However, time is running out to pass the bill ahead of the summit, as both the House of Commons and the House of Lords must first agree on any changes.
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