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World-leading ambitions watered down on watchdog and environmental protection plans

As the government releases its consultation today, 18 charities have called for the watchdog to be given real teeth and be backed by environmental law.

10 May 2018

As the government releases its consultation today, 18 charities[1] have called for the watchdog to be given real teeth and be backed by environmental law. They warned that the watchdog could be left toothless without stronger legal powers than those proposed and that environmental protections could be watered down unless they are enshrined in law.

The coalition is calling for the new watchdog to be given: powers to initiate legal proceedings; sufficient funding and; a robust mandate. The organisations are also calling for the UK Government to enshrine its environmental commitments into law through a new Environment Act, to prevent them being
weakened in future.

The charities are urging the Government to set up the watchdog and to protect key environmental principles as part of a much-needed Environment Act[2] which must:
- guarantee the watchdog has the powers and resources to be effective
- oblige public bodies to apply the principles of environmental law, such as the ‘polluter pays’ and ‘precautionary’ principles
- set measurable and legally binding goals and targets for environmental improvements,
such as cleaner waters, healthier soils, reduced pollution and recovering wildlife populations.

Dr Elaine King, Director of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘The future protection of our wildlife and landscapes hangs in the balance depending on key decisions made in this consultation. The current
proposals could leave us with a watchdog with a bark that is worse that its bite, and environmental protections that can be ignored as they’re not enshrined in law.

‘Strong powers, adequate funding and independence are vital for a newwatchdog, to give it the teeth it needs to be truly effective. We also need strong environmental targets and protections like the “polluter pays” principle set in stone in a new Environment Act, to ensure that big business and Government can
be held responsible when they damage our natural world.’

Tony Juniper, Executive Director of WWF, said: ’As we leave the EU, it's vital we create a new environmental watchdog that has strong jaws and big teeth - and real targets for it to enforce. Legally-binding carbon emission targets have committed successive governments to tackling climate change. Setting targets for nature's recovery won't just help save our wildlife, it will also have economic, social, health and quality of life benefits. That’s why we hope an ambitious and bold new Environment Act is something the whole government will support.’


Notes to editors:

1. These calls are backed by 18 organisations: A Rocha UK, ALERC, Angling Trust and Fish legal, Bat Conservation Trust, Campaign for National Parks, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Client Earth, Fish Legal, Freshwater Habitat Trust, Institute of Fisheries Management, Marine Conservation Society, Plantlife, Rewilding Britain, RSPCA, Woodland Trust, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust WWT, Wildlife and Countryside Link, WWF-UK, and ZSL – Zoological Society of London

Wildlife and Countryside Link is the biggest coalition of wildlife and environment charities in England, and operates as part of a UK-wide coalition - Environment Links UK

2. The Environment Act is likely to apply to England only and these principles will also need a legal basis through legislation in the devolved nations.

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