UK climate change laws should be extended to other areas of “environmental breakdown” with binding targets to protect natural systems, a think tank has said.
A new “Sustainable Economy Act” should set legal targets in areas such as wildlife, soil fertility and air quality, in addition to the greenhouse gas limits set by the Climate Change Act, IPPR argues in a new paper.
And there should be deeper changes to economic thinking to ensure the UK is living within its natural means.
A new Sustainable Economy Act should include binding targets, a new committee on sustainability to advise the Government similar to the expert Committee on Climate Change and a new enforcement body to hold ministers to account on environmental regulations.
IPPR warns that existing European Union safeguards on the environment will fall away without new legislation after Brexit.
The Government’s draft Environment Bill for protecting the environment post-Brexit could provide the way to do this, but currently fails to introduce legally binding targets or interim goals needed to drive improvements, it said.
New targets should also cover the wider environmental impact of all economic activity on these natural systems including on countries that export goods and services to the UK, the think tank’s paper argues.
Laurie Laybourn-Langton, the paper’s lead author, said: “The Climate Change Act and the UK’s target of net-zero decarbonisation by 2050 effectively places a greenhouse gas constraint on the economy.
“It is vital that similar constraints are extended to all the areas of environmental breakdown. A Sustainable Economy Act can do this.
“We urgently need to rethink economics so that we can continue to live within the UK’s and the planet’s means – protecting the many natural systems that are crucial to everyone’s ability to lead good lives in a way that is just, sustainable and prepared.”
Luke Murphy, head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission, said the Climate Change Act was a “revolutionary” piece of legislation that required the Government to limit greenhouse gas emissions to levels set in law – but climate change was not the only environmental threat.
“The Climate Change Act was a revolutionary piece of legislation that required the Government to limit the total carbon emissions of the UK to levels set in law.
“With much of the UK’s environmental policy deriving from our membership of the EU there is an even greater and more urgent need to put in place a Sustainable Economy Act to protect all aspects of our environment after Brexit – with or without a deal.
“This should be supported by a new Committee on Sustainability to advise the Government and a new enforcement body with extensive powers to hold the Government to account.”