MPs call for post-Brexit climate watchdog with strong legal powers
A new independent body should have powers to enforce environmental standards and hold the government to account after the UK leaves the EU, a cross-party group of MPs has said today.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) also raised concerns around a “worrying lack of detail” in regards to how the government’s 25-year Environment Plan objectives will be achieved.
It recommends that a new Environmental Enforcement and Audit Office (EEAO) be set up, ensuring functions currently carried out by the European Commission and European Court of Justice are not lost after Brexit.
In addition, the EAC called for legally binding climate targets, along with five-yearly action reports, and for the government to provide details before publication of the draft Environmental Principles and Governance Bill.
“The government’s 25-year plan is high on ambitions, but low on milestones,” EAC chair, Mary Creagh, said. “The government has more experience of getting rid of environmental watchdogs than of setting them up.
“We want an Environmental Governance and Principles Act that sets legally binding targets and creates a new Environmental Enforcement and Audit Office to measure progress and enforce this new law.”
The EAC recommend that the new watchdog have powers to:
• Oversee all public authorities, including local councils and arm’s length bodies – not just central government
• Take the government and other public bodies to court where standards are breached
• Initiate its own investigations, including complaints brought by the public, which the courts can then adjudicate
• Provide scrutiny of the government’s 25-year plan through an architecture of five-yearly legally binding targets
• Provide targets and make policy proposals for the restoration and recovery of nature.
The body would be accountable to, and overseen by parliament, in order to guarantee its independence from government and prevent its budget from being cut in the future.
“The government needs to set out detailed delivery and funding proposals for the plan, and departments across Whitehall need to commit to its ambitions, rather than trying to water them down behind the scenes,” Creagh added.
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Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM