Built environment sector demands legally binding green targets

The UK government’s upcoming Environment Bill must include legally binding targets for biodiversity, waste, and air quality, a group of leading construction and property firms has warned.

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In a letter to chancellor Philip Hammond, a total of 23 businesses said nature has been neglected for “too long”, undermining the economy and threatening health and wellbeing.

But with plans to build 300,000 homes a year until the mid-2020s, the government now has a chance to put the natural environment “at the heart” of construction, according to the letter.

This well help ministers deliver their pledge to leave the environment in a better state than they found it, and improve the UK’s current ranking of 189th out of 218 countries for nature depletion.

“We are calling on the government to use the bill to set legally binding targets for environmental objectives – including tackling biodiversity loss, improving water and air quality and cutting down resource use and waste,” the letter states. 

“By setting binding targets, the government can give the construction and property sector the confidence and certainty we need to help drive nature’s recovery, and set a level playing field that enables businesses who do the right thing to be rewarded.”

BAM Construct UK, British Land and WSP are among the letter’s signatories, and also said the government has a chance to build an economy that is “restorative and regenerative by design”.

This comes after IEMA’s chief policy advisor Martin Baxter called for cross-party consensus when designing environmental targets for the UK after Brexit, and said that any future framework must have “legal teeth”.

Speaking at a built environment event last week, Baxter also warned that the proposed framework for environmental principles has holes, and that overarching objectives need to be established.

“The environment shouldn’t be a political football, booted around between different political parties – it is more important than that,” he continued.

“What we need is a durable system of environmental governance that is predictable for private and public sector investment so we don’t end up heading off in a different direction with a change of government or minister.” 

“We see the forthcoming Environment Act as being the start of the UK’s environmental constitution. The challenges we face are great, and it is only through collaboration that we will be able to fix them.”

Image credit | iStock 

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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