Defra has called for environmental targets to be published ahead of the COP15 biodiversity summit

The Government will face fresh calls today to set out how it plans to meet its environmental targets, with MPs accusing ministers of overseeing a “culture of delay” at the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, which last month led to a legally binding deadline for installing new environmental goals not achieved.

The chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), Philip Dunn MP, has written to Environment Secretary Theresa Coffey to express the committee’s concern that delays at Defra are slowing any significant progress towards the UK’s environmental targets.

An open letter published this morning warned that the government had failed to meet a statutory deadline of October 31 to confirm new long-term targets for air quality, water, biodiversity and species abundance, as well as resource efficiency and waste reduction.

It highlighted that the deadline for setting these targets was set in the government’s own Environment Act, which received royal assent in November 2021.

The EAC is now calling for new targets to be published ahead of the final COP15 biodiversity summit scheduled for December 7 in Montreal.

Britain is expected to play a leading role at the international summit, where it is a key member of a coalition of countries calling for a new target of preserving 30 per cent of land and sea for nature by 2030. But critics have warned that Britain’s ability to urge other countries to step up conservation measures could be severely undermined by its failure to pursue more ambitious and effective environmental policies at home.

Newly appointed environment minister Theresa Coffey told the House of Commons earlier this month that she was “disappointed” to learn that the government could not yet publish its new environmental targets after a consultation period that ended in June 2022. The government blamed the high number of responses to the consultation for the delay.

But the EAC today highlighted a number of policies and initiatives that it claims have been delayed. The Committee therefore calls on the Secretary of State to deliver new targets in the coming weeks and to set a timetable for the publication of documents on a range of environmental initiatives, such as the planned Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging scheme, the Chemicals Strategy, the Policy Statement on Environmental Principles and the National Pesticide Action Plan , all of them are waiting for companies and company members.

In his letter to the secretary of state, Dunn singled out water quality and “fast fashion” waste management efforts as areas where government progress has been particularly slow.

In the last parliament, the EAC published a report on measures to combat the negative impact of cheap clothing on the environment. Although ministers rejected most of the report’s recommendations, the government promised to launch a consultation on tackling textile waste alongside a consultation on tackling fishing gear waste. However, according to the EAC, no consultation paper has yet been published.

On water quality, Dunn’s letter is concerned that the Government’s delays in setting out firm strategic direction for regulators and the industry through statutory targets promised under the Environment Act are undermining ministers’ commitment to tackling widespread problems affecting quality water in the rivers of England.

“The country faces serious challenges as we seek to halt the decline of our precious biodiversity,” Dunn said. “Prompt, precise and decisive action is now of utmost importance. I am sure that the new Environment Secretary, who is no stranger to DEFRA, will quickly deal with these issues which have been championed in her department. She will know that if we want the UK to become a world leader in sustainable development, we must make more urgent progress.”

Last month, Defra published an update detailing progress to date on the environmental targets set out in the Environment Act 2021, saying “significant work has been done to meet the ambitious environmental targets”.

The department also highlighted that during the consultation on the targets, which ended in June 2022, it received more than 180,000 responses from a variety of individuals, businesses and other organisations.

It said that due to the large volume of submissions received, as well as significant public outcry, it was not possible to publish the updated environmental goals, as originally planned, by the end of October 2022.

In a statement at the time, Environment Minister Theresa Coffey said: “I was part of the ministerial team that created the 25-year environment plan and prepared the Environment Bill for Parliament in 2019. Defra will continue to work at a fast pace to complete their environmental targets.’

https://www.businessgreen.com/news/4060542/defra-urged-publish-environmental-targets-ahead-cop15-biodiversity-summit Defra has called for environmental targets to be published ahead of the COP15 biodiversity summit

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