The Environment Act 2021
The story of how thousands of people shaped a new law that will determine how the natural world is governed for years to come.
Credit: Robert Read / WTML
The finalising of the new Environment Act marks a pivotal moment in all our efforts to reverse the alarming declines in nature. And it’s thanks to thousands of people, including many of our supporters, that the new law lays the ground for putting our natural world on the road to recovery.
Shifting the dialogue
Since the Environment Bill was first announced in 2018, there has been a huge shift in the public debate on tackling the nature and climate crises. The urgency of the crises has crystallised for many thanks to the actions of campaigning groups, the voices of young people and the drum beat of pressure from charities like ours and their supporters.
Together we have campaigned for – and won – more than we might have thought possible just a few years ago. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen.
Oxford Dictionaries declared ‘climate emergency’ the 2019 word of the year after the phrase went from relative obscurity into common usage.
Pressing for for Government targets to recover nature
Right from the beginning, NGOs were united in calling for the bill to set out legally binding targets for nature’s recovery. We believed a target for nature - equivalent to the net zero target for climate - was fundamental for driving action.
Our supporters were among the thousands who spoke up. As part of Wildlife and Countryside Link we helped secure an amendment to the bill to introduce a legally binding target halting nature’s decline by 2030. This is a huge win for the natural world and should pave the way for coordinated action for nature’s recovery in the UK.
supporters wrote to their MP
asking them to back a nature target in 2018.
attended the mass lobby in Westminster
in 2019 to call for a stronger bill and action on climate.
signed a petition
in 2021 calling for a legally binding target to halt species decline.
Working together to achieve change
Alongside the campaign for a nature target, we’ve worked with our friends across the sector to lobby for other key improvements to the bill as it made its way through the parliamentary process.
We worked as part of the Greener UK coalition to ensure the new environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), can successfully:
- challenge threats to wildlife
- drive habitat restoration
- ensure that nature’s benefits are available to everyone.
Although as a coalition we managed to improve the plans for the OEP, concerns about the strength of the watchdog’s independence still remain. The Act also introduces new environmental principles into law but, despite our efforts, sweeping exemptions remain in place for certain government departments which don’t have to abide by them.
Our voices make a difference
Backed by our committed supporters, we’ve worked hard throughout the bill’s progress to make sure the role of woods and trees has been recognised in the legislation. Here are some of the highlights from our journey.
more than 3,500 supporters helped protect street trees
by responding to a consultation that means local authorities now have to consult their communities before felling.
we submitted thousands of supporters' messages
to the Parliamentary committee responsible for scrutinising the bill, calling for legally binding targets for trees.
over 5,000 people called for legal protection for ancient woods and veteran trees
The late amendment to the bill was rejected, but prompted Government to commit to improving existing protection.
Thank you for joining us
It’s down to the actions of the public, including many thousands of our supporters, that we have successfully brought about many of the improvements in the bill. Thank you to everyone who spoke up for nature, people and trees.
The Environment Act passing into law is an enormous milestone in our shared endeavour of halting nature’s decline. It marks the beginning of the next chapter. Now we must all be ready to pile on the pressure. Commitments must be kept, plans must be implemented and ambitions must be realised. We'll continue to speak up for our woods and trees and hope you'll keep standing with us to protect the nature we all love.