The year 2017 promises to be critical for environment and sustainability policy, with the early part of the year set to see a series of impactful changes, as well as the official triggering of Article 50 which will begin the UK’s departure from the European Union. Policy expert Martin Baxter from professional body IEMA has identified five standout issues, challenges and opportunities for the profession in the coming months.

Policy activity is likely to take the form of longer-term strategy, locking in the direction of travel for many years to come, but getting it right and maintaining momentum will be a challenge in the face of short-term competing demands.

It is essential that we grasp the opportunity to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and sustainable economy. Making a positive contribution in the following five key policy areas will help to set the conditions to unlock investment, enhance natural capital and provide employment and export opportunities for UK business.

1. Industrial Strategy
This will provide the opportunity to embed the transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy – one that is flexible and agile and which gives a progressive outlook for a future outside the EU.

2. Corporate Governance Reform
This move is about ensuring an effective corporate governance framework is in place, and is critical to re-establishing trust in companies. Key areas being looked at include executive pay ratios with other workers, strengthening the employee, customer and supplier voice in corporate decision-making; and exploring whether to enhance reporting and transparency requirements for the UK’s largest privately-held businesses.

3. Carbon emissions reduction plan
Achieving the UK’s Fifth Carbon Budget for 2028-2032 requires comprehensive action to tackle greenhouse-gas emissions from heating, transport and electricity generation. We also need to go much further and faster to significantly enhance energy efficiency. A credible plan with cross-government support is critical to unlocking low-carbon investment.

4. 25-year Environment and Food & Farming Plans
Delivering on the long-term vision to enhance the value of natural capital over a generation, these plans will need to be mutually supportive in both setting high levels of environmental protection and enhancement, while setting a long-term framework for land management and food production when the EU Common Agricultural Policy no longer applies in the UK.

5. Great Repeal Bill
Due to be announced in the Queen’s Speech, assuming that Article 50 notification for the UK to leave the EU is issued in line with the Government’s Brexit timetable, this Bill will transpose EU law into UK law “wherever practical” and be enacted immediately on the UK’s EU exit. For those aspects of EU environmental law that cannot be directly converted into UK law, there will need to be some quick thinking!