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Environmental policies in the UK: are they enough?

Environmental policies in the UK: are they enough?

The Climate Change Act established that it is the Secretary of State's duty to ensure that the UK reduces its emissions by 100% compared to 1990 by 2050.

Notably, the Act introduced a 10% Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) as a legal requirement, and requires biodiversity gains to be managed for a minimum of 30 years.

It also establishes a long-term framework for other new policies, such as local nature recovery strategies and conservation agreements. To monitor compliance, the Office of Environmental Protection, an environmental watchdog, was established.

Brexit, in turn, was also a "climate referendum", as it triggered changes in the UK's environmental policy.

After winning the election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that it was his government's intention to make the UK "the cleanest, greenest country on earth, with the most far-reaching environmental program". However, leaving the EU meant that European directives would not be transposed into UK legislation.

Approximately 70% of UK environmental legislation is European, and the UK is also one of the European countries that has suffered the greatest economic losses in recent years as a result of extreme weather and climate events. In fact, 71% of Britons believe that climate change is more important in the long term than Brexit.

The Climate Change Act in the UK


The UK Climate Change Act was passed in 2008 and was the first national 'framework' legislation in the world to provide a comprehensive and universal law setting out the UK's approach to reducing emissions and preparing for the impacts of climate change.

It has four basic pillars:

  • The Act contains a legally binding target to reduce the UK's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.

  • Carbon budgets are legislated twelve years in advance of the Budget start date to provide sufficient time for the Government to develop and enact policies and for businesses to invest.

  • The Act obliges the government to develop and publish policy programs to achieve legislated emissions reductions and address the risks identified in the latest climate change risk assessment.

  • The Law created the Climate Change Committee as an independent legal advisor. Members are expert and politically impartial and are supported by an analytical secretariat. support of an analytical secretariat.

However, experience has shown areas where the Act could be improved or where the response has been less effective: progress on climate change adaptation has been slower, there are no clear timelines for government policy development, and the treatment of emissions from international aviation and shipping remains unclear.

This decade brings a new set of challenges for UK climate policy and for the Climate Change Act.

This includes a more ambitious near-term decarbonization pathway on the way to Net Zero emissions by 2050. This will require action from all sectors of the economy, much greater involvement of people in decarbonization and ensuring that the transition is carried out in a fair and equitable way.

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