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UK government sets out green credentials with new environmental law

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

The Government is setting out its green credentials in response to the growing concern over climate change and wildlife losses, with new laws to protect the environment.

The long-awaited Environment Bill includes measures to improve air quality, ensure nature is not damaged by building new homes, and make household recycling services more consistent.

After the controversy over the felling of street trees in Sheffield, the Bill will include local communities having a greater say in the protection of their trees.

It will bring in a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, and charges will be introduced for specific single use plastic items, building on the carrier bag levy.

It also sets out a system for legally-binding targets on environmental protection - much of which is currently governed by EU directives - and establish a new independent regulator to enforce the laws.

The environmental moves come against a backdrop of increasing concern about tackling climate change and wildlife losses, with school strikers and Extinction Rebellion protesters calling for urgent action.

As the Queen's Speech was taking place, Extinction Rebellion activists were blockading the road outside the Bank of England over fossil fuel funding.

By this summer, climate change had risen to among the three most important issues facing this country, behind only Brexit and healthcare, according to polling by YouGov, and parties are vying to set out their green agendas.

The speech also reintroduces the Fisheries and Agriculture Bills, which will govern those sectors post-Brexit, and an Animal Welfare Bill to increase sentences for cruelty and recognise that animals are sentient.

The Agriculture Bill sets out plans to shift the current EU farming subsidy regime to a scheme where land managers will be paid to deliver "public goods" including better water quality, increased wildlife, access to the countryside, and flood protection.

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