New Environment Protections Set Out in Flagship Bill

Draft clauses for the first Environment Bill for 20 years have been published by the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove. The bill will be an essential step to put environmental ambition and accountability at the heart of government, demonstrating the strong commitment to maintain environmental protection as we leave the EU. 

Alongside the draft clauses, the government has published a policy paper setting out a broader vision for the UK’s environment when we leave the EU.

The draft clauses will be part of a broader Environment Bill – introduced early in the second session of parliament – which will include legislative measures to take direct action to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age: air quality; the protection and enhancement of our landscapes, wildlife and habitats; more efficient handling of resources and waste, and better management of our surface, ground and waste water. 

The policy paper also sets out how the government will explore options to include additional cross-cutting targets for environmental improvement as part of the legislative framework.


The core elements published in the draft clauses are:

Environmental principles

  • The environmental principles – such as the “polluter pays” principle or that the public should be able to participate in environmental decision-making – are fundamental to achieving the environmental ambitions. 
  • These will act as guiding principles to help protect the environment from damage and will encourage decision-makers to further consider the environment in the development of government policy.

The Office for Environmental Protection

  • A world-leading, green governance body will be established – the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) – to uphold environmental legislation. 
  • The OEP will be an independent, statutory environmental body that will hold government and public bodies to account on environmental standards, including taking legal action to enforce the implementation of environmental law where necessary, once we leave the EU, replacing the current oversight of the European Commission.

25 Year Environment Plan

  • The 25 Year Environment Plan sets out how we will recover nature, replenish depleted soils, rid seas and rivers of the rubbish damaging our planet, cut greenhouse gas emissions, cleanse our air of toxic pollutants, and develop cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.
  • The draft bill proposes making it a legal requirement for government to have a plan for improving the environment, to monitor and report annually to parliament on progress and update it at least every 5 years. 
  • The 25 Year Environment Plan, published in January 2018, would become the first such plan, giving it the status and permanence to deliver the ambitious goals.


Mr Gove said: “Our proposals are concerned with environmental governance in England and reserved matters throughout the UK, for which the UK government has responsibility. 

However, we continue to explore with the devolved administrations whether they wish to take a similar approach. 

We would welcome the opportunity to co-design proposals with them to ensure they work across the whole UK, taking account of the different government and legal systems in the individual nations.”

More detail on all policy areas will be published in due course. Click here to read more.


External Sources

Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill 2018