Photograph of a species-rich grassland

Photograph of a species-rich grassland

Environmental governance in the UK

Published 20/11/2023   |   Reading Time minutes

Following the outcome of the EU referendum, environmental groups, like Greener UK, raised concerns about gaps in environmental governance arising from the UK’s departure from the EU.

The EU’s system of environmental governance includes monitoring and reporting on environmental law implementation by Member States, a method of receiving citizens’ complaints, and taking enforcement action when breaches of EU law occur.

Out of the EU, environmental stakeholders have been calling for replacement domestic environmental governance arrangements for the UK, to hold public bodies to account.

Although the Welsh Government first committed to legislate to address the governance gap in 2018, no legislation has been brought forward to date. However, as an interim measure, the Welsh Government has appointed an Interim Environmental Protection Assessor for Wales. It has also committed to publish a White Paper in January 2024 for a Bill to establish a governance body.

Meanwhile, statutory governance bodies have been established for England and Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

The absence of a full replacement regime has prompted Wales Environment Link to suggest Wales now has “the weakest environmental governance structures in western Europe”.

In September 2023, the Senedd’s Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee concluded it will be an “unforgivable failure of this Welsh Government if the new body is not fully operational before the end of its term in office”.

This briefing provides background on the EU’s system of environmental governance from which the UK has departed, the current situation across the UK, and the proposals for Wales.

Article by Katy Orford and Sara Moran, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament