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Get moving on new environment office

Ray Georgeson

Much has been said already about the merits of the resources and waste strategy for England. Like many others, I welcomed much of the ambi­tion and recognition of the need for action.

But little attention has been paid so far to the structures and agencies needed to deliver much of this ambition and whether any reform or reor­ganisation is needed.

Headlines were created when environment secretary Michael Gove launched draft legislation to set up a new independent environmental watchdog, the Office for Envi­ronmental Protection (OEP).

Much work needs to be done to outline how the proposed OEP might scrutinise re-sources and waste legislation and its implementation, and what sanctions and penalties it may have at its disposal for non-compliance.

But I am not sure this is really a priority for the resources and waste sector, and it is critical the Govern­ment avoids confusion and conflation of roles in relation to the functions of the Envi­ronment Agency.

Delivery of the ambition in the strategy will benefit from an empowered agency of Gov­ernment to really act as a cata­lyst for the delivery of a circular economy, sustainable indus­trial development using recov­ered materials and oversight of the coming issues of materials security, economic resilience and climate change.

Plenty of work was done on this a few years ago by the Materials Security Working Group, chaired by the EEF, in which a range of sectors partic­ipated. It advocated an Office for Resource Management (ORM) in research conducted with the Institute for Public Policy Research in 2014.

The proposed ORM would have forecasting, research and modelling capacity and a cross-departmental role in assessing materials security risks and mitigation, monitor­ing materials flows and pricing. It would also support cross-Government implemen­tation of effective resource management, and revive and maintain a resource security action plan for economic and geopolitical storms.

It would need a tight work­ing relationship with WRAP, which plays a vital role in com­plex project delivery that is crucial to the strategy.

I believe the ORM model has even more relevance now and would be an asset to the Government and industry. Bold and radical new policy needs fresh organisation and impetus now, not in five more years.

Ray Georgeson is chief executive at Resource Association

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