The conference takes place following the anticipated introduction of the full Environment Bill and will be an opportunity to consider its aims, including to:
- establish long-term environmental governance and accountability;
- improve air and water quality;
- restore and enhance nature and green spaces; and
- develop a more sustainable resource and waste management system.
Assessing the Office for Environmental Protection
With an interim environment watchdog announced earlier this year - aimed at addressing any gaps in governance until the Office for Environmental Protection is established - delegates will examine the Government’s proposals for the design of the body, including its potential role, overarching powers, and how it would be implemented.
Areas for discussion include whether the OEP should be able to levy fines and further options for enforcement measures over non-compliant bodies in areas such as air, waste, water and chemical regulation
Delegates will consider these powers in the context of concerns about potential cross-over and duplication of scrutiny and advisory roles with other existing bodies, such as the Environment Agency and Natural England.
Priorities for stakeholders - confidence, continuity and independence
The agenda looks at the priorities for businesses in the development of the OEP - including their need for confidence in the delivery of policy commitments in the face of political uncertainty, and the opportunity for organisations to have options for redress through the legal and regulatory system equivalent to those currently in place.
Delegates will also consider issues around maintaining regulatory support in areas such as nature recovery, biodiversity and net gain.
Following the pre-legislative inquiries by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee, attendees will also look at the challenges of ensuring independence and accountability of the new watchdog.
UK-wide environmental standards
With the ‘green watchdog’ set to responsibilities for environmental governance in England as well as reserved matters throughout the UK - and as the Government discusses potential framework - delegates will examine the potential future relationship of the OEP with devolved administrations.
Further sessions focus on the potential opportunities and challenges for developing UK-wide environmental standards across multiple areas such as waste and water - taking into account policy outlined in the Resources and Waste Strategy and PR19 Draft Determinations to improve sustainable processes.