The Environment Act and that Vote
I did not vote to allow sewage to be pumped into our rivers. No one did – in fact MPs voted to increase the restrictions of water companies using overflows. During the passage of the Environment Act through parliament, the Duke of Wellington proposed an amendment to immediately stop the use of sewage overflows.
Not only is this practically infeasible without flooding people’s homes with sewage, he had not considered the cost to consumers – independent evidence commissioned by the Storm Overflows Taskforce estimated total elimination of overflows could cost up to £600bn. The government agreed an alternative approach, mandating progressive reductions in discharges and agreeing targets that the water companies must achieve, which will be set out in the final plan, which prioritises dealing with the environmental and public health impacts first while also balancing this with the cost to consumers.
We have had storm overflows in this country for at least 150 years. This is the first government that is taking action to fix the problem. We have already laid the foundations for that with new powers and new responsibilities in the Environment Act last year. We are not letting water companies get away with this and have been repeatedly clear that water companies’ reliance on overflows is unacceptable and they must significantly reduce how much sewage they discharge as a priority. Our regulators have also launched the largest criminal and civil investigations into water company sewage discharges.
January 2023 Environmental Targets
The Conservatives voted in favour of five legally binding targets to improve our environment. Those targets are:
• Halt the decline in species populations by 2030, and then increase populations by at least 10% to exceed current levels by 2042
• Restore precious water bodies to their natural state by cracking down on harmful pollution from sewers and abandoned mines and improving water usage in households
• Deliver our net zero ambitions and boost nature recovery by increasing tree and woodland cover to 16.5% of total land area in England by 2050
• Cut exposure to the most harmful air pollutant to human health – PM2.5
• Halve the waste per person that is sent to residual treatment by 2042.
You can find more information at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-legally-binding-environment-targ…
We left the EU, but we maintained and brought into law the standards we have become accustomed to and through the Environment Act have made them better, stronger and more enforceable.