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UK to set legally binding environmental targets to tackle climate crisis

Legally binding targets for air quality, waste reduction, biodiversity and cleaner water are to be introduced by the UK Government.

The targets will be introduced in order to underpin the Environment Bill 2020 and future governments will be obliged to stick to them.

The bill is set to resume its passage through parliament soon and will help fill a hole left by the UK’s impending exit from the EU, which will mean the country is no longer beholden to many of the environmental rules laid down in Brussels.

It includes measures designed to minimise the impact of climate change on the UK which is causing localised species loss, habitat erosion and the disappearance of certain wildlife.

A report will be delivered to parliament every two years assessing significant developments in the environmental protection legislation of other countries in order to ensure the UK keeps pace with its European neighbours.

In addition, a new environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, will report annually on the government’s progress against the targets. It is also set to oversee the country’s move towards its 2050 net zero-emissions target.

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs has indicated that further priority areas and targets can be introduced to tackle the most pressing or newly emerging issues.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to “build back greener” as the UK aims to recover from the coronavirus pandemic which caused the country's economy to shrink by a fifth in the second quarter - the largest such contraction on record.

Work towards the stated green goal is already underway, as evidenced by last month’s announcement of a £3bn package targeting energy efficiency improvements in homes.

Britain was the first G7 country to commit to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050 and it will host the United Nations’ climate summit in November 2021, postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic.

Environment secretary George Eustice said he hoped the new targets would provide certainty to businesses and society: “The targets we set under our landmark Environment Bill will be the driving force behind our bold action to protect and enhance our natural world, guaranteeing real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today.

“I hope these targets will provide some much-needed certainty to businesses and society, as we work together to build back better and greener.”

A group of MPs recently called on the Government to do more to improve the use of hydrogen fuel in the UK, which they said was would play an essential role in meeting climate commitments. 

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