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Environment bill to include legally binding targets to curb plastic waste and air pollution

Legally-binding targets to curb plastic waste and create clean air will be part of a new environment Bill announced today.

The goals will focus on less waste, cleaner air, cleaner water and more biodiversity to tackle climate change.

The measures will form part of Boris Johnson’s bid to ‘build back greener’ following the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

Reducing plastic pollution will be part of the reduction in waste target, which will help prevent hundreds of tons of the pollutant ending up in the oceans and damaging wildlife.

Potential targets for waste reduction include increasing the productivity of resources and cutting rubbish and plastic pollution. 

Ministers may also introduce goals to reduce public exposure to the microscopic polluting particles that have the most significant impact on health in a bid to improve air quality.

Targets could also be introduced to create wildlife-rich habitats in land, rivers, at sea and in the countryside, as well as increasing populations of species on land and at sea.

Ministers will also look to tackle pollution from agriculture and waste water to improve water quality. Targets may also be set on water demand.

The Daily Mail has long campaigned against plastic polluting the seas and countryside with the Turn The Tide On Plastic campaign. The campaign has successfully fought to ban harmful microbeads and contributed to plastic bag use dropping by more than 90 per cent in supermarkets since 2015.

In a speech last month Mr Johnson said the country needed to ‘build back greener’ to recover from the coronavirus.

‘We will build, build, build,’ the Prime Minister said. ‘Build back better, build back greener, build back faster, and to do that at the pace that this moment requires.’

Environment Secretary George Eustice said last night: ‘The targets we set under our landmark environment Bill will be the driving force behind our bold action to protect and enhance our natural world – guaranteeing real and lasting progress on some of the biggest environmental issues facing us today.

‘I hope these targets will provide some much-needed certainty to businesses and society, as we work together to build back better and greener.’

The targets will apply to any future governments and will use evidence from independent experts to inform them.

The Government has pledged to report annually on progress through a new environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection. Businesses, communities and civil society will be able to share their views in a public consultation in early 2022.

The Government said the Bill will resume its passage through Parliament as soon as possible.

It has also legislated to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The UK is set to take the presidency of climate talks COP26 in November 2021.

WWF spokesman Kate Norgrove said: ‘Legally-binding targets are critical but we need detail and urgency. To address the nature crisis, we need these legally-binding targets in the UK now – but just as urgent is the need to tackle the environmental damage we import.

‘A credible environment Bill has to help protect the Amazon and other disappearing habitats with tough new nature laws to eliminate deforestation from the products we buy.’

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