The Environmental Protection Act 1990 was a landmark piece of legislation for the real estate sector, establishing legal responsibility for contamination and pollution control for land, air and water, and also regulating waste disposal and statutory nuisances. Our understanding of the threat posed by contamination and climate change has increased significantly in the thirty years that followed, and the long-awaited new Environment Act was finally put onto the statute books in 2021. When it is fully operational, what might the new legislation mean for the UK's real estate industry?
Overview of the Environment Act 2021
The Environment Act 2021 (the "Act") is split into two distinct sections. The first half provides a legal framework for environmental governance, requiring the Government to set long-term targets in each of the priority areas of air quality, water, biodiversity, and resource efficiency and waste reduction by October this year, and creating a new, statutory and independent environmental body, the Office for Environmental Protection, to hold the Government to account on environmental law now that the UK has left the EU.
The second half makes provision for specific improvement of the environment, including measures on waste and resource efficiency, air quality, water, nature and biodiversity, and conservation covenants. More details are set out here, but 3 of the key measures that will have the greatest impact on the real estate sector are summarised below: