On 15 October 2019 the Government published the final draft of its Environment Bill. The Bill is intended to deal with a number areas of the Government's environmental policy post-Brexit.
One key part of the Bill is the creation of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). The OEP is intended to replace, in the environment context, the oversight functions currently undertaken by the European Commission to ensure that Member States of the EU are held to their commitments.
The creation of the OEP is not a new announcement - the Draft Environmental (Principles and Governance) Bill which was published in December 2018 also contained provisions relating to the creation of the OEP. However, last week's announcements differed in two material ways from the previous draft legislation.
First, the OEP will have recourse to a new kind of legal mechanism - the "Environmental Review" which can compel public authorities to take action if a court finds they have breached environmental law. Secondly, the OEP has now been made responsible for enforcing climate change targets, an area which was missing from the 2018 Bill and caused concern to environmental campaigners and lawyers.
In addition to the above, on 17 October it was announced that the prime minister would chair a new cabinet committee on climate change to drive action to cut emissions across government.
There remain many unanswered questions arising from the draft Environment Bill. However, are these recent changes an indication that Government is starting to acknowledge the leadership and cross-cutting departmental challenges arising from the commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050?
Plans for a new green watchdog to protect the environment after Brexit have been outlined by the government. Ministers say the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) will be an independent statutory body to safeguard environmental standards. It will have the power to take the government to court to enforce environmental law after Brexit.