Introducing: The Environment Act 2021 – and what it means for you

06.12.2021 3 min read


On Tuesday 9 November, Royal Assent was granted for the Environment Act 2021, the UK’s all-encompassing post-Brexit environmental policy framework. First introduced over two years ago, the Act will shape the work of those who work in or interact with environmental consultancy, planning and infrastructure.

A major milestone for the UK, the Act is unlike anything we have seen before, covering all areas of the environment including nature restoration, air quality, water and resource management, and waste. As a core part of the commitment to leave the environment in a better state, the Act requires a legally binding target to be set to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030. This is in addition to the requirement to set at least one long term legally binding target for biodiversity. The nature and biodiversity measures in the Act will help achieve this target. They will introduce new duties, tools and support to improve nature including an array of new provisions, such as the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain, Local Nature Recovery Strategies, a strengthened Biodiversity Duty, and Species Conservation and Protected Site Strategies.

Underlying this is a list of five environmental principles to which the Government will now be bound. While these principles aim to put environmental accountability at the heart of the Act, their overarching nature presents a challenge as to how we respond to them in practice. The five principles are:

  • The integration principle is the principle which states that policy-makers should look for opportunities to embed environmental protection in other fields of policy that have impacts on the environment;
  • The prevention principle means that government policy should aim to prevent, reduce or mitigate harm;
  • The rectification at source principle means that if damage to the environment cannot be prevented it should be tackled at its origin;
  • The polluter pays principle is the principle that those who cause pollution or damage to the environment should be responsible for mitigation or compensation; and
  • The precautionary principle states that where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

With this in mind, Temple is excited to introduce our upcoming series, The Environment Act – and what it means for you.

Using our extensive in-house expertise, this series will look in-depth at each of the five environmental principles to demonstrate how they will affect and shape various technical areas of our work.  We will read between the lines of these statements, giving them direction and perspective within a practical context, to provide a succinct set of recommendations and reflections relevant to our roles as environmental and sustainability consultants.

Watch this space for the first entry in our series, The Environment Act – and what it means for you –  the Environmental Principles: Air Quality.

Key Contacts

Dr Sarah Cox Divisional Director - Ecology