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  • Dusan Mijailovic

Environment Bill is the key to the sustainable growth of startups

Five years past since Darebin, local government area in Victoria, Australia, in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, became the first council to announce a climate emergency. New Jersey and California cities followed shortly. The United Kingdom, through all four of its parliaments in Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont, was the first government in the world to acknowledge the emergency at national level in 2019. Now, 1,868 jurisdictions have followed suit across 33 nations.

However, the announcement of a global emergency does not make the climate issue a priority in itself. It merely opens the door for prioritization of actions and legislation that will bring about change. In October 2019, the government presented to Parliament its flagship Environment Bill. The general election, and then the first lockdown, postponed it. Ministers pressed the 'pause' button again this January, ensuring the Bill would not pass into law until two full years after it was first suggested.

What is disappointing is that there is so much promise in the legislation. A green industrial revolution is pledged. A legal framework for the safety of our environment beyond the European Union with improved air quality and testing of waste reduction goals will be created. However, each day of delay has a detrimental effect on start-ups whose goal is to build sustainable growth solutions. Plans are dashed, investment is threatened and confidence is weakened.

The UK has continuously topped the European venture capital funding rankings for start-ups, amid the Brexit turmoil, and the South East continues to be a center for innovation. The government pledged a £ 1bn support package for UK start-ups in the last budget, keen to encourage science and technology, research, and development. These steps reflect the government's willingness to 'build back better,' but it is almost impossible to make a reality of the rhetoric when corporations are lacking the legal framework and advice they need.

Startups and innovators of the country are the guiding power behind a green industrial revolution. Yet they are caught in limbo in the absence of legislation. Investors need clarity about the prospects that might be the path to sustainable growth for companies.

The wait also threatens the UK slipping behind the rest of the world on environmental standards. In order to ban microplastics applied to cosmetics, paint, detergents, and virtually all other consumer and industrial goods, the EU has set the wheels in motion. This move will take effect later this year, and the 1.9m microplastic particles present on every square meter of the ocean floor are likely to have a major impact. Similarly, the Bill is an opportunity for the UK to follow the EU in prohibiting so-called "oxo-degradable" plastics, which further decompose into hazardous microplastics.

All of these initiatives are good indicators of solid legislation on sustainability. Specific goals are set out by European law, with a given effect and a well-established timetable. Industry and innovators, in particular, have a chance to react and prepare, catalyzing the development of plastic substitutes.

The UN Climate Change Conference, Cop26, is being hosted in Glasgow this November. By then, the Environment Bill is imperative to be on the statute book, so that the UK can demonstrate itself as a global champion in sustainability. And there is a tremendous chance for governments to engage in cross-party calls for legislation to contain concrete goals on minimizing plastic waste before the legislative process continues. The United Kingdom, far from lagging behind the European Union, should strive to lead the continent.

In the UK, we are lucky to have some of the greatest innovators of science and technology on the planet. Together, we will export new solutions around the world, such as renewable plastic substitutes. The government really shouldn't postpone its environmental agenda, but should instead understand Britain's great chance to lead the globe in a real response to the emergency that our nation first identified.


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