We know that the Government’s post-Brexit aspiration for the UK’s agricultural industry is to be at the heart of championing land custodianship. What that will look like in practice, we do not know. The Government has now started trialling the anticipated Environmental Land Management Scheme, but it won’t be until 2025 before the new Scheme will be fully up and running.
The recent summer policy statement for the Environment Bill provides us with a little more insight into where the Government is leading us.
The policy statement sets out how the Environment Bill will deliver a “Green Brexit”. It states that the Bill will embed environmental values at the centre of policy making.
The statement prioritises biodiversity loss, climate change, air quality and plastics pollution, stating 'With public concern about the environment and climate at an all-time high, urgent action is required to drive necessary change. We need to fundamentally rethink how we approach environmental sustainability and enhancement, and the way we plan, invest and live.'
The statement confirms that the Bill will provide legislation for voluntary conservation covenants. The idea is for private agreements to be entered into with “responsible bodies” (such as environmental charities) and landowners or tenants. The covenants will not be personal to the persons entering into them, but will attach to the land and be registered on the Local Land Charges Register. I am yet to fully understand what will incentivise people to enter into such voluntary agreements, unless there is an element of monetary gain or a better tax position.
The much anticipated and very welcomed legislation on waste features highly on the Bill’s agenda. One of the main principles of the Bill is that the “polluter pays”. This can be seen in the Government’s approach to ensuring that costs associated with recycling shall be borne by the producers of the packaging. Currently the producers only pay 10% towards this cost, whereas the intention is to increase it to the full net amount. With news of polluted seas and ever-growing mountains of waste in landfill sites across the UK, I for one certainly hope this has the effect of forcing the producers to use materials that are easier and more cost effective to recycle.
The Environment Bill will be introduced to Parliament in October this year.