The UK Government will today publish a parliamentary Bill that it claims will lead to a “green transformation” enabling communities to protect the environment by limiting single-use plastic and improving air quality.

The Environment Bill, the first of 26 in the Queen’s Speech to be published, will make an “historic step” in the way Britain protects nature, UK ministers insist.

While the Bill primarily applies to England, more than half of its measures - such as those designed to drive up recycling rates - are designed to apply across the UK and will do so in Scotland if Holyrood gives its consent.

“Our landmark Environment Bill leads a green transformation that will help our country to thrive,” declared Theresa Villiers, the Environment Secretary.

“It positions the UK as a world leader on improving air quality, environmental biodiversity, a more circular economy, and managing our precious water resources in a changing climate.

“Crucially, it also ensures that after Brexit, environmental ambition and accountability are placed more clearly than ever before at the heart of government, both now and in the future,” she added.

The bill builds on the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. UK ministers believe the legislation to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and hosting the Climate-focussed COP26 in 2020 in Glasgow will keep the UK at the forefront of international work on these issues.

The new bill aims to:

*ensure the environment is at the heart of all Government policy-making by holding the present and future administrations to account if they fail to uphold their environmental duties, including meeting net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and wider long-term legally binding targets on biodiversity, air quality, water, and resource and waste efficiency;

*enable local authorities to work with families to cut harmful pollution from domestic burning by using cleaner fuels;

*restore and enhance nature through “biodiversity net gain,” ensuring new homes are built in a way that protects and enhances nature;

*improve protection for natural habitats in supporting a Nature Recovery Network by establishing Local Nature Recovery Strategies and giving communities a greater say in the protection of local trees;

*transform waste management through powers to ensure producers take responsibility for the waste they create, introducing a consistent approach to recycling, bottle deposit return schemes, more effective litter enforcement and new charges to minimise the use of single-use plastics and

*protect precious water resources by increasing sustainable water management through securing long-term, resilient water and wastewater services in the face of a changing climate.

A new public body – the Office for Environmental Protection – will be an independent watchdog, which the Government says will have the teeth to hold it and other public bodies to account on fulfilling their obligations on the environment.