In this latest Environmental Law News Update Christopher Badger considers new pollution statistics from the Environment Agency, a new cabinet committee on climate change chaired by the Prime Minister and FCA feedback on climate change and green finance.
Environment Agency publishes pollution statistics for 2018
The Environment Agency has published a report entitled ‘Regulating for people, the environment and growth, 2018’ which sets out some statistics for 2018. Key points to take away include:
- There were 533 serious pollution incidents in 2018, up 27% from 2017;
- Illegal waste sites continue to increase, up 5% to 896 new sites found by the EA;
- 12,690 tonnes of unsuitable waste was prevented from being exported, saving the UK economy approximately £1.1 million in avoided repatriation costs;
- 52 enforcement undertakings were made by companies in 2018;
- The number of operators with environmental permits ranked in bands D, E or F increased to 439, up from 385 the year before.
Less than half of the serious pollution incidents were attributable to industrial activities with environmental permits. 81 were attributed to illegal waste activities and 56 were caused by water companies. There were 67 attributed to “natural causes” compared to 26 in 2017 – this includes dry weather as well as other extreme weather, which was a notable feature of 2018.
In 2018 permitted landfill sites released 149,000 tonnes of methane gas into the air. This is about 14% of the total methane emissions in England. Interestingly, methane emissions from the landfill sector have decreased by 61% since 2008 and by 12% between 2017 and 2018. It is reported that this reduction in emissions is due to a combination of a drop in landfill gas production and improvements in landfill gas collection.
There were 133 million overnight holidays and day visits taken to the seaside in England in 2017, worth £7.4 billion to the economy. Over 400 bathing waters at beaches and lakes were tested for bathing water quality. Compliance with bathing water standards was 97.9%, with only 9 waters receiving the lowest classification of ‘poor’.
Also interestingly, the report states that the average British person produces 76kg of plastic per year, far more than for example Sweden and Norway where the average is 18kg. It is, however, significantly less than the US, which averages 120kg per person per year.
The full report can be read here
Prime Minister to chair new Cabinet Committee on Climate Change
On 17 October the Government announced that the Prime Minister will chair with a view to driving further action across government to protect our environment, reduce emissions and improve air quality.
The committee will bring together Ministers responsible for domestic and international climate change policy and provide a forum to hold departments to account for their actions to tackle climate change. The committee will also play an essential role in co-ordinating the strategy to take the UK to net zero by 2050.
In addition, the committee will oversee the UK’s preparations to host the UN’s major climate summit, COP26, in November 2020.
The BBC has reported that the creation of the committee follows long-standing criticism that some departments, especially transport, have failed to play their part in combatting global heating. The news came two days after the Government published its response to the Committee on Climate Change’s 2019 progress report, which itself identified that the departments for transport and housing were at the frontline of any efforts to reach net zero, criticised vague plans to phase out petrol cars and the lack of policy to deliver on energy efficiency ambitions.
The press release can be found here
The response to the CCC can be found here
FCA publishes feedback statement on climate change and green finance
The Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) has published a feedback statement following its recent discussion paper on ‘Climate Change and Green Finance’. The feedback statement summarises the responses received and sets out the next steps that the FCA proposes to take.
The FCA has three outcomes that it wishes to enable:
- Issuers provide markets with readily available, reliable and consistent information on their exposure to material climate change risks and opportunities;
- Regulated financial services firms integrate consideration of material climate change risks and opportunities into their business, risk and investment decisions.
- Consumers have access to green finance products and services, which meet their needs and preferences, and receive appropriate information and advice to support their investment decisions.
The feedback notes that challenges exist in determining the materiality of climate change risks. Generally there was support for climate risk disclosure and the development of internationally agreed standards and metrics. Concern was raised about the short-term results culture in finance which may be limiting the growth of the green finance market and the need for FCA engagement with industry.
Following the responses the FCA proposes to publish a consultation paper in early 2020 proposing new disclosure rules aligned with the TCFD’s recommendations on a comply or explain basis, together with clarification that existing rules require disclosure of all financially material climate related risks. Amongst other things it will also propose rule changes requiring Independent Governance Committees to oversee and report on firms’ ESG and stewardship policies by the end of 2019 and the FCS intends to engage and consider the proposals of the European Commission’s Sustainable Finance Action Plan relevant to products and services, particularly around product disclosures.
The feedback statement demonstrates a significant level of engagement by the FCA on the subject of climate change risks and a clear outline of the work that it intends to undertake from now, through Q2 2020 and beyond.
The feedback statement can be found here
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