OEP assessment: government falling short

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The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has published its assessment of government progress on the 25-year environment plan, concluding that this progress has fallen short of expectations.

There have been some improvements in air quality in recent years and people’s engagement with nature is also up markedly. Although welcome these are likely to in part be associated with behavioural changes brought about by lockdown.

The OEP calls for urgent action across the whole of government to address the shortcomings in achieving the plan’s targets. The government is expected to publish the first environmental improvement plan by 31 January, where it should respond to the OEP’s recommendations.

The government has indicated, during the passing of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, that its proposed new Environmental Outcome Reports (EORs) in part 6 (replacing the current Environmental Impact Assessments process) are intended to ensure that the ambitions of the Environment Act 2021 and the 25-year environment plan are reflected in the planning process. There is still insufficient detail and it remains to be seen what effect EORs will have in practice.

The government has yet to issue its promised environmental principles policy statement, purportedly a tool to ensure all government departments consider environmental principles when designing policy. However, the likelihood of a long implementation period will undoubtedly result in a delay before it will have any impact on the environment.

Photo: John Paul Walsh

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