Government publishes Environmental Principles Policy Statement

The UK Government has yesterday published its long awaited Environmental Principles Policy Statement (EPPS). This document sets out environmental principles should be “interpreted and proportionally applied by ministers when making policy” in England.

This duty, derived from the Environment Act 2021, is expected to come into effect from 1 November 2023. Given the delay already, it is unclear why the policy cannot come into force immediately.

The 5 principles included in the policy statement are:

  • integration principle
  • prevention principle
  • rectification at source principle
  • polluter pays principle
  • precautionary principle

The document states: “The purpose of these principles is to guide ministers and policymakers towards opportunities to prevent environmental damage and enhance the environment. However, the principles are not rules and they cannot dictate policy decisions by ministers.”

The legal duty to have due regard to this policy statement applies to Ministers when making policy. Policy can be broadly understood as an intended course of action adopted to achieve an objective. Examples of policy include:

  • proposals that lead to legislation
  • national policy statements, strategies and frameworks
  • ministerial statements setting out the government’s formal position on an issue
  • documents, strategies and frameworks prepared by public bodies that ministers are required by statute to approve
  • any other document that sets out a substantial change in approach to an established position

CIEEM’s Head of Policy, Jason Reeves, said:

Despite the delay, the publication of this policy statement is very welcome. It is now for Government to ensure that this document is applied across government departments and agencies and is not seen as solely applicable to Defra.