Environmental concerns feature heavily in Queen's speech

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:
Her Majesty spoke of the government’s goals to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution, and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive

The Queen spotlighted environmental concerns in her speech at the House of Lords this morning, following a three-day closure of Parliament.

Her Majesty spoke of the government’s goals to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution, and restore habitats so plants and wildlife can thrive.

Alluding to the long-awaited Environment Bill, which is set to be brought forward in the next parliamentary session, she said: “For the first time, environmental principles will be enshrined in law”.

She also mentioned the introduction of legally-binding environmental improvement targets and an independent regulator, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action.

The full details of the Bill are expected soon, with particular scrutiny expected for what kind of enforcement powers the OEP will have, how much freedom it will have to investigate suspected environmental breaches, and its funding structure.

The speech also asserted that the bills for fisheries and agriculture would come back into session, after being halted by Parliament’s prorogation earlier this month.

Finally, Her Majesty mentioned the government’s plans to unfold a National Infrastructure Strategy, which is expected to make the UK’s energy system more sustainable and improve public transport, among other aims.

The environmental community applauded the agenda laid out in the speech but pointed to the need for a committed collaboration between the sector, the government, and the public.

Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), said: “Major new reforms are coming which will have a profound impact on producers and the way things are made; how we collect materials when they are discarded; how we treat those materials and how waste services are funded.

“This will require major change and investment from the environmental services sector and the Environment Bill must provide the new legislative framework which will underpin this next phase of investment.”

David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, commended the Bill’s dedication to dealing with plastic waste and pollution but warned that it must be accompanied by radical societal reform of our consumption and resource use.

“An ad hoc, piecemeal approach to meeting society’s collective challenge to consume fewer virgin materials and to recycle more simply won’t deliver the systemic changes needed to deliver on the praiseworthy ambitions of the Environment Act.”


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