The Environment Act 2021 has received Royal Assent, following extensive debate in Parliament.
This provides the basis for the legal creation of the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) and settles our constitutional arrangements. The Act also confirms in law the functions that will provide the tools for our job – to protect and improve the environment, by holding government and other public authorities to account. The adoption of the Environment Act is an important step towards a fully operational and independent OEP.
In the coming days, we expect the OEP to be legally formed when the section of the Act that establishes the OEP is commenced. This will allow us to implement our transition plan to functional independence by early in the New Year. We then expect Parliament to take the steps needed for our functions and powers to be made available to us. The OEP will then be fully established.
Once empowered, we will be able to monitor and report on environmental law and advise government on proposed changes to the law and other environmental matters. We will be able to investigate suspected failures in the application of environmental law and enforce compliance with environmental law by public authorities when needed. And we will review and report on government’s progress in meeting environmental goals and targets.
In the interim, we continue to develop our strategic approach, and are preparing to consult on our strategy as soon as our functions are enabled in law.
Dame Glenys Stacey, Chair of the OEP says:
“The Environment Act is a cornerstone of the government’s ambitions to tackle ever more pressing environmental issues. I am delighted that the Act creates the independent Office for Environmental Protection and gives us the tools for our job. We are well underway with establishing a functionally independent, fully operational OEP from early in the new year. There has never been a more crucial time for us all to work to protect and improve our environment. The OEP will play its full part.”