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Examination of Witnesses

Part of Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 10th March 2020.

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Ali Plummer:

I think they are really welcome and vital. This area of the Bill is quite sparse. The targets are difficult. We are trying to tackle some challenging and difficult issues. One of the things that we will be looking for is the welcome conversation that the Government will open with experts, practitioners on the ground and stakeholders to make sure that we are genuinely setting achievable and ambitious targets. We are setting a high level of ambition but we are also clear what we need to do in order to achieve those targets. Those two conversations need to go hand in hand. We cannot set high-level ambitious targets without having a genuine conversation about how we are going to get there. Otherwise, we will end up setting long-term targets and potentially arguing for the next 15 years about how to do it and then have to start the whole process over again.

We are looking to build some of that Government intent into the Bill. We then have certainty and clarity that not just this Government but successive Governments will continue that intent and make sure that the Bill is going in that direction—in particular, on the advisory function, making sure the Government have access to good-quality expert advice. It follows more of the model we see in the Climate Change Act 2008, where there is a “comply or explain” mechanism built in. The Government can take this expert advice, which is public, transparent and clear, and comply with it, or give a good, clear explanation why not. Those are the sorts of things we are looking for. As Ruth reiterated earlier, I think we are as one on this. We totally recognise the Government intent. We are looking for a Bill that will make sure that successive Governments hold that intent. That open dialogue, where we can all have a genuine conversation about what we need to put in place to tackle these issues, is welcome.