The Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 – is this Government’s way of “Going Beyond”?

09.03.2023 4 min read

This year’s B Corp month is all about how we, as businesses and organisations, can “Go Beyond” the harmful status quo that results in negative environmental and social impacts – this encourages values that are well within Temple’s way of working.

The recently published Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 sets out Government’s ambitious plans for a cleaner, greener country and will therefore set the framework for how a lot of organisations and businesses operate in the UK. We must therefore question if this plan will set others on the path to “going beyond” or if can we expect business as usual to remain. Here’s what we have to say…

Legislative context

In January 2018, UK Government published the 25-Year Environmental Plan (also referred to as 25YEP), which set out the need, and economic sense, behind its ambition to improve the environment. To do this Government set out a framework of supporting goals and policies, which included intentions to deliver this ambition through concepts including ‘environmental net gain’ and through improvements in environmental regulation.

Fast forward 3 years and Government has updated relevant planning policy in the form of the National Planning Policy Framework and more significantly the Environment Act 2021. The Environment Act introduced new duties on Government including those relating to:

  • Long-term environmental targets
  • Preparation of Environmental Improvement Plans
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Environmental principles
  • Environmental protection: statements and reports.

The government has sought to implement this legal framework through:

  • The Environmental Targets Regulations – a series of statutory instruments covering particulate matter, marine protected areas, water, waste, biodiversity and woodland/trees; and
  • The Environment Act 2021 Commencement Regulations – specify the date that provisions within the Environment Act come into force and provide further detail to support practical implementation such as the issuing of guidance.

In parallel, Government has, with the publication of the Environmental Improvement Plan (also referred to as the EIP23) in January 2023, completed its first review of the 25YEP. It has restated its overall goal, which is,

We will achieve a growing and resilient network of land, water, and sea that is richer in plants and wildlife.

The EIP sets out challenging aims, such as restoring 500,000 hectares of habitat, 400 miles of river, increasing household proximity to green space or water to a 15-minute walk away from your home, protecting rare wildlife species such as red squirrels and grey seals, and driving investment to support green careers such as through the creation of 34,400 jobs across the waste and environmental sectors, with the aim of making society greener by default.

EIP25 Goals?

The EIP23 is supported by 10 key goals which are:

  1. Thriving plants and wildlife
  2. Clean air
  3. Clean and plentiful water
  4. Managing exposure to chemicals and pesticides
  5. Maximising our resources, minimising waste
  6. Using resources from nature sustainability
  7. Mitigating and adapting to climate change
  8. Reducing the risk of harm from environmental hazards
  9. Enhancing biosecurity
  10. Enhanced beauty, heritage, and engagement with the natural environment

The government expects the achievement of these goals, secured through the changed legal and policy environment, to support the UK in delivering environmental improvement.

What response has the EIP had?

So far, the plan has received some criticism in the mainstream press, with many stating that Government is not on track to achieve such ambitious targets which they have already set, and that time is running out for these goals to be met regarding climate change and how will the government embed and actualise these goals into existing communities across the UK? Similarly, ministers have been criticised for a lack of detail on how the achievement of the targets will be funded. In particular, the onus on farmers to deliver more nature-friendly farming practices at a time when there is uncertainty about exactly what payments farmers will receive post-Brexit.

The ultimate question is whether this is merely a statement of intent, or if can we expect to see details and outcomes through the legislative framework.

What are we doing?

As a purpose-driven business Temple can, through our zero harm/ net gain way of working, support our clients and partners with the requirements set out in the EIP.

In obtaining B Corp certification, Temple has been recognised as an organisation that uses business for good with a deep commitment to continually improving not just the way we do business, but the way business is done all over the world.

March is B Corp month, a time for B Corps, like us, to come together, and celebrate what this means – the EIP23 has enhanced our ambition, and we aim to work in harmony with the report and promote the greater good for the environment, the industry we work in.

Temple offers project or standalone expertise and understanding of the fundamental goals set out in the EIP23, including through our air quality, noise, sustainability, ecology, and environmental assessment divisions. Whether through support to landowners, asset managers, or developers we have the experience and tools to support you in meeting policy and statutory requirements and looking at opportunities you have for delivering the bold ambition UK Government has set out. Our work continues to go above and beyond, working with clients to build shared understanding and to deliver their goals while achieving a growing and resilient network of land, water, and sea that is richer in plants and wildlife.

Key Contacts

David Hourd Senior Director - Environment