Ministers will put environmental protection at the center of future policy under the new plans adopted today (Wednesday 10 March).

The landmark environmental law will mandate ministers across Whitehall to base their policy-making on five internationally recognized environmental principles – protecting the environment for the next generation and demonstrating that the environment is at the heart of government work ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference Nations 2021.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

We want to embed the environment in the design, development and implementation of government work.

Our environmental principles are essential and will ensure that ministers across Whitehall not only protect the environment but also address problems at their source.

This will fulfill our promise to keep the environment in better condition for future generations.

This legally binding declaration will establish five environmental principles and oblige the government to become greener again. These principles are:

  • The principle of integration states that policymakers should look for ways to embed environmental protection in other policy areas that have an impact on the environment.
  • The principle of prevention means that government policy should aim to prevent, reduce or mitigate damage.
  • The principle of rectification at the source means that if environmental damage cannot be prevented, it should be addressed at its source.
  • The polluter pays principle is the principle that those who cause pollution or damage should be responsible for mitigation or compensation.
  • The precautionary principle states that in the event of threatened serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of scientific certainty must not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental damage.

There is no way to combat climate change that does not include restoring and protecting nature. As host of COP26 this year, President of the G7 and key player in the CBD COP15, the UK is leading the climate agenda and environmental principles will help bring government, society and the world together for our planet.

The government is consulting a draft policy statement on the five environmental principles, which will specify how they are to be interpreted and applied proportionately.

The Declaration of Principles will guide ministers in all government departments on ways to prevent environmental damage while supporting innovation and sustainable development, and will support the government in its goal of implementing the most ambitious environmental program in any country on earth.

Defra will help government departments understand and apply the requirements of the new duty in their policy making. Defra will offer information workshops and training and incorporate the principles into existing government policy guidelines such as the Ministry of Finance’s Green Paper.

You can respond to the advice here.

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