What is the UK Environment Act of 2021?

What is the U.K. Environment Act, and how successful has it been in preventing climate change and various other environmental impacts?

7 min

Global Warming 🔥

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7 min

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September 23, 2022

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Table of contents

With Brexit, the U.K. has had to establish a plethora of their own new governmental tactics, as they don’t have E.U. guidelines to follow anymore – one of the many being the U.K. Environment Act of 2021.

Climate change has been impacting the U.K. more so than usual, with drastic heat waves that have put the mental and physical health of Brits in danger for prolonged periods of time. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that countries all around the world develop a strong environmental policy to prevent the negative, irreversible impacts on climate change.

Does the U.K. Environment Act of 2021 really help to mitigate the current effects of climate change? How does it differ from the environmental policies that the U.K. was using prior to Brexit?

How did the U.K. Environment Act Start?

The U.K. Environment Act has been in the works for quite some time – long before Brexit finally happened. The Environment Act was proposed to the House of Commons at the 2019-2020 parliamentary session, and was finally passed by legislation in the final quarter of 2021. 

The U.K. Environment Act was originally a bill that received its financial support from various sources such as the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Minister for the Pacific and the International Environment. 

In short, the U.K. Environment Act has been in the works for years – even prior to Brexit. However, leaving the E.U. has provided Britain with much needed incentive to accelerate and finalise these individualised plans. 

Why was the U.K. Environment Act of 2021 implemented?

Just because the U.K. decided to leave the E.U., doesn’t mean that they wanted to give up the European Union’s strong values on climate change prevention. 

Since leaving the E.U., it has become imperative for the U.K. to clearly delineate their own goals – especially with climate change, as the global predicament continues to worsen. Therefore, the U.K. Environment Act of 2021 serves as the United Kingdom’s guide to protect the environment. Laws that pertained to protecting nature, biodiversity, water quality, clean air, and other various environmental concerns were all derived from Brussels – where the E.U. headquarters are. The U.K. Environment Act of 2021 was necessary for the country to establish its own environmental legislation separate from the E.U. following Brexit.  

The Environment Act of 2021 serves to assist local governments with areas such as waste, recycling, air and water quality, and protecting nature – such as the U.K. Greenbelt. Ultimately, the new Environment Act helps the country to establish their own personal environmental goals, while also improving the communication between the central and local government – which is vital if the country wants to see improvement upon climate change. 

What are some of the regulations included in the U.K. Environment Act?

The U.K. Environment Act strives to promote better environmental protection into society by providing both central and local governments with new targets for air quality, water, biodiversity, and waste reduction. 

The Environment Act pertains to several environmental issues, but it doesn’t quite meet the expectations many were awaiting as the act misses many pivotal, environmental matters – such as forest fires. 

However, the environment act does allow for better communication between central and local governments, which can ultimately improve the progress on several environmental goals. The U.K. Environment Act of 2021 addresses waste management, air and water quality, and biodiversity. 

Improved Recycling & Preventing Waste

The U.K. government has been keen on reducing superfluous waste for many years now, but the environment act solidifies their commitment to reducing waste and improving recycling wherever possible. For instance, the environment act requires all producers to pay for the sorting of materials at the end of their life to encourage them to use more sustainable materials instead. 

The local government has desired for an increase on littering fines, and the environment act helps to establish this measure in efforts to reduce waste and encourage others to recycle. Financial support is being sought for improved recycling measures throughout the U.K., and in the meantime – companies are meant to reduce the amount of non-recyclable elements included in their packaging. 

The U.K. Environment Act of 2021 encourages all recycling manners to be handled at a local level, as the capacity for recycling differs throughout the country.  The Environment Act also seeks to reduce food waste from apartment buildings and to encourage excess charges to certain single-use plastic items, however – no concrete plans for how these charges would be applied have been made yet. The Environment Act also strives to influence other businesses to meet their own recycling goals as well, and wants to help businesses meet their targets if possible. 

The Environment Act will fine those who litter, as it isn’t only bad for the environment – but creates extra work for the city council. Therefore, the Environment act places a large responsibility on citizens to play their part in mitigating waste and recycling. 

Air Quality

The Environment Act plans to improve the air quality throughout the U.K., and recognises that the old measures weren’t proving successful. The Environment Act is committed to searching for new resources to improve air quality, and placing the responsibility for new ways to control poor air quality on both citizens and local governments. The Environment Act will build upon the existing Clean Air Act to improve smoking regulations and re-enforce domestic burning rules. These new incentives will also help to reduce emissions. 

Water Quality

The Environment Act plans to support current and future drainage boards in order to improve water quality, but calculations for these improvements are yet to be made – and it hasn’t been specified how involved local governments will be in this component of the Environment Act. The Land Drainage Act will also be adjusted under the Environment Act. 

Nature & Biodiversity

Finally, the Environment Act will improve upon existing efforts to preserve and stimulate biodiversity by recruiting new departments to accomplish this goal. For example, future profit from biodiversity units will be used by local authorities for biodiversity conservation and improvement. The Environment Act recognises that more resources are required to conserve and improve existing biodiversity. Therefore, the Environment Act will also enforce the Forestry Commission to mitigate illegal deforestation, as this often negatively impacts biodiversity. This goal must be funded, but the Environment Act has not delineated where the funding to protect nature and biodiversity will come from. 

What are the pros and cons of the U.K. Environment Act?

The Environment Act of 2021 clearly delineates all of the United Kingdom’s environmental goals, but is there something that could stand in the way of the U.K.’s potential environmental success?

It’s never easy to break away from what you already knew. Being a part of the E.U. was known to improve the world’s viewpoint on the U.K.’s stance towards the environment. In other words, without the influence and partnership of the European Union, Britain may have been known as a “dirty” or “smoggy” country that never did anything to reduce emissions or waste. As the 17th ranked country in the world in terms of excessive global emissions, the U.K. now stands alone in improving their ranking – with no guidance to be given from the European Union. This puts additional pressure on the U.K. Environment Act to be more successful than it already needs to be given the current state of global warming. 

The good news is that the U.K. Environment Act clearly depicts the actions necessary to improve upon each individual sector that is impacted by climate change, and improves the relationship between central and local governments in order to create lasting and beneficial environmental change. 

But is the U.K.’s new Environment Act on par with the European Union’s current environmental policy? 

How different is the U.K. Environment Act different from E.U. protocols to protect the environment?

The E.U.’s Environmental Policy is overall, more stringent and date oriented than the U.K.’s Environment Act of 2021 is. For example, the E.U. has climate change goals in place for 2020, 2030, and 2050 – whereas the U.K.’s goals are more generalized and not incentivised by a date. 

The priorities of the various environmental objectives differ between the E.U. and the U.K. as well. The E.U. has a strong desire to become the first carbon neutral continent in the world, whereas the U.K. is more concerned with protecting the biodiversity of the country and mitigating waste wherever possible. 

The E.U. environmental policy is ultimately more detailed than the U.K. Environment Act. Therefore, it can be said that the environmental incentives that the U.K. government adapted from Brussels prior to Brexit may have provided the U.K. with more urgency and reason to achieve their environmental goals in a timely manner. 

Think of it this way: there is less planning involved being the student than there is being the teacher. The teacher has to create the lesson plans, execute them, and test the students regularly to track their progress. The student, while presented with the daunting task of learning the material – doesn’t have to provide the guidelines for everyone else. The student simply has to learn the subject matter, and can use the method best for them to be successful on the next exam. 

Prior to Brexit, think of the U.K. as the student and the E.U. Parliament as the teacher. Now, the U.K. has to be both the teacher and the student in terms of assigning and achieving environmental policies. The U.K., once held accountable for failure to implement policies set forth for E.U. member states – now has to find the intrinsic motivation to reduce their carbon footprint. 

The specific elements that were once provided to the U.K. through the environmental policies of the E.U. may have made it easier for the United Kingdom in the long run. Is it still possible for the U.K. Environment Act of 2021 to prove successful without the guidance of the E.U.?

Does the U.K. Environment Act help to mitigate climate change? 

The U.K. Environment Act of 2021 can help to mitigate climate change, but it is contingent on support from all three participants: the central government, the local government, and the citizens. For instance, just because the U.K. establishes measures to fine those who contribute to waste, doesn’t mean that it can completely stop someone from littering. 

It is probable that substantial improvements will be made due to the measures presented in the Environment Act, but ultimately – climate change is going to change when the people change, and while the people aren’t likely to change without government incentives, the U.K. Environment Act of 2021 may need to establish harsher penalties and deadlines to make it happen. 

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about the U.K. The Environment Act of 2021 has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint. 

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