In November 2017, Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, announced an intention to consult on a new independent body that would hold government to account for upholding environmental standards in England following the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. In May this year Defra issued the consultation asking views on: the functions of any new body, which principles should underpin environmental policy, and how these should be embedded into law.
ADA has responded to this consultation. The key points from our response can be read below.
ADA’s is interested in ensuring that England retains robust and effective environmental accountability once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union and that its governance is based on sound principles.
In ADA’s opinion, we need to ensure that the application of any principles applied to future policy-making are appropriate to England’s future circumstances, and much will depend on the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. Such principles should be set out in the content of any future bill to be put before parliament.
The existing environmental principles used to guide and shape modern environmental law are accepted. However, ADA is concerned that the precautionary principle has been used, in some instances, to either justify an approach to, or prevent, a potentially harmful activity by considering only its hazard, without sufficient consideration of either its scale, probability or duration of that hazard, or indeed any probable environmental benefits.
Therefore, ADA would support a further proportionality principle, to be listed within the Bill, taking account of factors, such as the severity of risk, scale of exposure, probability, and duration, as well as the importance of the environmental issue.
ADA considers that the case for a new environmental body has been insufficiently made by the Government and the cost and effort would be better spent towards enhancing environmental delivery. Greater clarity is needed that such a body would not overlap with or duplicate the powers, duties and functions of existing bodies.
However, if such a body were to be created, ADA considers that: