UK government urged to introduce Sustainable Economy Act

The UK government should look beyond carbon emissions and introduce tough new laws to address wider impacts on the environment, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has argued.


In a paper published last week, the think tank called for a Sustainable Economy Act that includes legally binding targets for biodiversity, soil fertility and air quality.

A new enforcement body with more powers than the planned Office for Environmental Protection would also be introduced, along with a sustainability committee similar to the Committee on Climate Change.

The IPPR said that the world faces a “perfect storm” of runaway changes caused by widespread environmental breakdown, and that dangerous “tipping points” could soon be reached.

“The Climate Change Act effectively places a greenhouse gas constraint on the economy,” the paper’s lead author, Laurie Laybourn-Langton, said. “It is vital that similar constraints are extended to all areas of environmental breakdown. 

“We urgently need to rethink economics so that we can continue to live within the UK’s and the planet’s means – protecting the many natural systems that are crucial.”

The IPPR paper argues that new environmental targets should encompass all economic activity, and also apply to countries that export goods and services to the UK.

But deeper changes to prevailing economic models are needed, including a new conception of prosperity and living standards, rapid increases in green investment, and a leading role for the state.

The IPPR also said that new legislation would enable the UK to enshrine existing EU safeguards into domestic law, warning that some of these will fall away after Brexit otherwise.

“There is an urgent need to put in place a Sustainable Economy Act to protect all aspects of our environment after Brexit – with or without a deal,” Luke Murphy, head of IPPR’s environmental justice commission, said

“This should be supported by a new Committee on Sustainability to advise the government and a new enforcement body with extensive powers to hold the government to account.”


Image credit | iStock

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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