In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Christopher Badger and Mark Davies consider the environmental announcements in last week’s Autumn Budget, the outcome of 2017 Bonn COP 23 and the European Commission’s consultation on pharmaceuticals in the environment.
The Autumn Budget and the Environment
The Autumn Budget stole headlines with its promises to tackle the housing crisis and to cut Stamp Duty for first-time buyers but, within the detail, there were various interesting environmental related announcements.
One which may be of interest to anyone who drives an electric car to work is that from April 2018 there will be no benefit in kind charge on electricity provided by employers to charge employees cars. This is only one of a number of announcements aimed at kick-starting the seemingly inevitable move towards electric vehicles. Other support for this agenda is to come in the form of a £400 million (£200 million from the Government, £200 million from private investment) Charging Investment Infrastructure Fund and £100 million to continue the Plug-In Car Grant through to 2020.
On air quality, the main announcement was that of a £220 million Clean Air Fund to support the Government’s July National Air Quality Plan. The Fund is to be generated by a Vehicle Excise Duty supplement (attaching to new diesel cars registered from 1 April 2018 not meeting the Real Driving Emissions Step 2 (“RDE2”) standards) and a rise from 3% to 4% in the Company Car Tax diesel supplement commencing on 6 April 2018 (again, those meeting the RDE2 standards will be exempt).
There were several interesting announcements in relation to environmental taxes. Firstly, the Government proposes to seek views in 2018 as to how the tax system or charges could reduce single-use plastics waste (vis-à-vis the existing plastic carrier bag charge). Secondly, from 1 April 2018 operators of illegal waste sites will be liable for Landfill Tax. This comes in conjunction with the announcement of an additional £30 million over the next four years for the Environment Agency to tackle waste crime. Further, the Aggregates Levy will be frozen at £2 per tonne for the 2018-19 period, whilst a decision has been taken not to introduce an exemption for aggregates extracted when laying underground utility pipes.
An additional £76 million is to be found to fund flood and coastal defence schemes over the next three years, of which £40 million has been earmarked to boost local regeneration in deprived communities at high risk of flooding.
Finally, the Government announced up to £557 million for further Contracts for Difference in order to support the cost-competitiveness of low carbon electricity.
Outcome of 2017 Bonn COP 23
COP 23 (the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) was held from 6 to 17 November 2017 in Bonn.
This was the first set of negotiations since Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the US from the Paris Accord. On day 2 of the COP, Syria announced it would sign up. This leaves the US as the only country in the world that has stated that it does not intend to honour the agreement. Interestingly, two US delegations arrived at COP 23, including a “We Are Still In” delegation with the likes of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California governor Jerry Brown (Bloomberg even argued that the alternative group should be given a seat at the climate negotiating table).
Britain and Canada launched a global alliance dedicated to phasing out unabated coal from electricity generation titled the “Powering Past Coal Alliance”. The alliance stated that coal phase out is needed no later than by 2030 in the OECD and EU28 and no later than by 2050 in the rest of the world in order to meet the Paris Agreement. The alliance’s declaration can be found here. However, notable countries that did not sign up to the alliance include the US, Germany, China and India.
It had already been agreed in Paris that 2018 would see a taking stock of how climate action was progressing. At COP 23 the “Talanoa dialogue” was launched, to start in January 2018. The dialogue will be structured around three general topics:
– Where are we?
– Where do we want to go?
– How do we get there?
It is intended that the dialogue will be conducted in a manner that promotes “enhanced ambition”, seeking to build a strong evidence-based foundation for the political phase due to take place at COP 24. The outcome of the dialogue is expected to capture the political momentum and help Parties to inform the preparation of nationally determined contributions.
Pharmaceutical consultation opened
The European Commission has this week finally launched its long promised public consultation on pharmaceuticals in the environment. The consultation is available here. The deadline for responses is 21 February 2018. There is a widely held view that the issue of pharmaceuticals in the environment is currently only partially addressed by regulation. 10 potential action areas have been identified. These are:
1. Improved understanding of the risks from pharmaceuticals to the environment;
2. Designing “greener” substances;
3. Ensuring the scientific robustness, consistency and transparency of risk assessments;
4. Promoting greener manufacturing processes;
5. Ensuring environmental risks are adequately taken into account and translated into mitigation actions;
6. Ensuring environmental impacts observed post-marketing are identified and reported (“eco-pharmacovigilance”!);
7. Promoting sustainable use of pharmaceuticals;
8. Ensuring appropriate collection and disposal of unused pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical waste;
9. Promoting more effective management of waste water, manure and sludge
10. Promoting better overall management of pharmaceutical emissions into soils and the aquatic environment.
30 possible policy options have been identified. The consultation results will be used to identify a shorter list of policy options for possible follow-up by way of proposals for measures, subject to impact assessment as appropriate.
One issue that is likely to arise for UK stakeholders is the extent to which the UK regulatory framework for pharmaceuticals will diverge from the European position. The developments in regulation that will result from this consultation will not be in place before March 2019 and it is by no means clear as to what extent the UK will either continue to be involved in the process or will consider implementing equivalent measures.
Six Pump Court receives four nominations in the Real Estate, Environment and Planning category of the Legal 500 UK Bar Awards
Six Pump Court is delighted to announce that it has received four nominations in the Real Estate, Environment and Planning category of the Legal 500 UK Bar Awards 2018.
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