Environment Bill to set pollution and water demand targets

Defra will set legally binding Environment Bill targets to tackle pollution from agriculture and wastewater to improve water quality, as well as a target on water demand to reduce the volume that is abstracted.

The government confirmed its plans for the water targets last week, alongside plans for a least one legally binding target each on air quality, biodiversity and waste. It said further priority areas and targets may be introduced at a later date, informed by scientific evidence.

Defra said the targets will be evidence based and developed through collaboration with independent experts and stakeholders. The water demand target is expected to take leakage and non household consumption into account as well as domestic usage, and thereby set a broader framework for the expected per capita consumption target pledged under the 25 Year Environment Plan.

All of the long term targets will be supported by interim targets setting out a five-year trajectory. The government will report annually on progress and also be held to account by annual reporting from the new green watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection.

Environment secretary, George Eustice (pictured), said: “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.”

Defra said the Environment Bill will “resume its passage through parliament as soon as possible”.