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Businesses call for binding interim targets in the Environment Bill

26th January 2021

Today the Aldersgate Group and several of its business members have published a letter calling on MPs to support an amendment to make interim targets legally binding when the Environment Bill returns to Parliament on Tuesday 26 January.

The Environment Bill is a vital opportunity to establish a new, ambitious and robust governance framework that protects and enhances the natural environment. Amongst other things, the Bill sets the foundation for a new independent environmental watchdog to hold the government to account, creates long-term binding targets within priority areas (air quality, water, biodiversity, and resource efficiency and waste reduction), and introduces interim targets to support the delivery of long-term targets.

To meet its ambition and put in place a strong a strong framework to deliver environmental improvements, businesses are calling for binding interim targets in the Environment Bill. Having strong interim targets in place to drive progress on the long-term targets helps ensure that government remains on track to meet them, and it provides businesses with a clear policy and regulatory framework to invest in. Without them, we risk backloading action which could undermine the delivery of long-term targets and make their delivery more costly.

This is why the Aldersgate Group and several businesses are calling on MPs to support an amendment to the Environment Bill which strengthens the Bill by expanding the Secretary of State’s duty to include meeting interim targets, in addition to meeting the long-term targets and the PM2.5 target.

- THE LETTER -

We represent businesses active across the UK economy and share the Prime Minister’s vision for a green economic recovery and the development of a world-class environmental policy framework in the UK. We fully support the Government’s Environment Bill and in particular the commitment to introducing binding long-term targets to improve the state of the natural environment in areas such as air and water quality, biodiversity and resource efficiency.

However, to support their credibility and avoid backloading action, these long-term targets must be underpinned by regular and binding milestones that will require successive governments to act without delay. This will provide the business community with a predictable and comprehensive set of policies, which will drive investment in the natural environment and improved environmental performance.

As the Environment Bill nears Royal Assent, we call on the Bill to be strengthened, by making interim targets binding. We stand ready to work closely with Government to deliver the improvements to our natural environment that our society and economy urgently need.

Signed:

Nick Molho, Executive Director, Aldersgate Group

Alex Plant, Director of Strategy and Regulation, Anglian Water

Sue Riddlestone, CEO, Bioregional

Peter Jelkeby, Country Retail Manager and Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA UK and Ireland

Mathew Riley, Managing Director, Ramboll

John Scanlon, Chief Executive Officer, SUEZ

Bevis Watts, CEO, Triodos Bank UK

Julia Barrett, Chief Sustainability Officer, Willmott Dixon

Jim Coleman, Director – Head of Economics, WSP

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Work on the Environment Bill must continue at pace despite delay

26th January 2021

Reacting to the delay of the Environment Bill, Signe Norberg, Head of Public Affairs and Communications at the Aldersgate Group, said: “While the delay to the Environment Bill due to the coronavirus pandemic is understandable, it is vital that Government uses this additional time to consider amendments to strengthen the Bill. This should entail making interim targets binding to ensure continuous action to improve the natural environment, introducing an overarching target which helps guide the setting of the long-term targets, and safeguarding the Office for Environmental Protection’s independence. Businesses want an ambitious Bill that requires successive governments to act urgently and introduce tangible policy measures to significantly improve the state of the natural environment. An ambitious and predictable policy environment is essential to incentivise private investment in nature restoration, improved environmental performance and more resource efficient business models. [1]”

- ENDS -

[1] Aldersgate Group and several of its business members have published a letter calling on MPs to support an amendment to make interim targets legally binding when the Environment Bill returns to Parliament on Tuesday 26 January. Please go here to read more: https://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/latest#businesses-call-for-binding-interim-targets-in-the-environment-bill

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Skills for Jobs White Paper can tackle skills shortages and provide routes into employment, but focus on sustainability is needed

21st January 2021

Reacting to the publication of the Skills for Jobs White Paper today, Ana Musat, Head of Policy at Aldersgate Group, said: “The Government has set forth an ambitious vision for lifelong learning, with a particularly welcome focus on devising a more employer-led education and training curriculum. The focus on reforming apprenticeships and technical training will be essential in tackling some of the main skills shortages facing our economy at present, most notably in sectors like construction and engineering.

However, it is equally important to ensure that this vision for education and training is attuned to the needs of a low carbon economy, which is why Government should build on this White Paper to include a greater focus on sustainability. To maximise the significant job creation potential provided by a green recovery and the UK’s environmental and climate goals, the White Paper needs to recognise the importance of increasing the low carbon skills provision and embed sustainability throughout the national curriculum across all stages of the education system.[1] The announcement of new Local Skills Improvement Plans is a step in the right direction, but further improvements will need to be made to ensure that the UK’s current and future workforce have the skills that are required.”
 
Ana Musat added: “In addition to creating the supply of skills required, Government needs to urgently publish a net zero strategy, outlining decarbonisation pathways for key sectors of the economy, to increase employer demand for these skills.[2] Through the work of the Build Back Better Council, there is an important opportunity to identify the policy decisions necessary to get to net zero and their social implications, including the levelling up challenge, the productivity puzzle and the skills deficit.”

—ENDS—

[1] On 15 October 2020, the Aldersgate Group published a policy briefing, Upskilling the UK workforce for the 21st century, calling for a low carbon skills strategy to plug the UK’s skills deficit. The briefing put forward a five-point plan of action which can be accessed here: https://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/latest#skills-deficit-needs-to-be-urgently-tackled-to-get-to-net-zero 

[2] On 5 October 2020, the Aldersgate Group launched a major report, Building a net zero emissions economy, looking at the key policy measures needed in this parliamentary term to put the UK economic on a credible pathway to net zero emissions: https://www.aldersgategroup.org.uk/latest#businesses-call-for-urgent-policy-decisions-to-put-uk-economy-on-track-for-net-zero-emissions 

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Reactive to Alok Sharma becoming full-time COP26 President

8th January 2021

Responding to the announcement that Alok Sharma will become full-time President of the UN COP26 climate conference, Nick Molho, Executive Director at the Aldersgate Group, said: "The UK has an important role to play as the host of COP26 to drive international ambition to tackle climate change. It is therefore welcome to see Alok Sharma MP taking on the role of COP26 President full-time to focus on this vital agenda. Having hosted the Climate Ambition Summit at the end of December, now is the time to build further international commitments to deliver the increase in global emission reduction targets that climate science is urgently calling for."
 
Nick Molho added: "Domestic progress will be vital to strengthen the UK’s leadership role ahead of and during the international summit. We therefore warmly welcome the appointments of Kwasi Kwarteng MP and Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP to the vital roles of Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth respectively. These roles will be essential in putting the UK on track to meet its net zero emissions target."

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