Environmental Law News Update

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

 

Six Pump Court shortlisted for Environment/Planning Set of the Year 2019 at the Chambers UK Bar Awards

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Environmental Law Podcast – October 2019

The latest monthly environmental law news podcast presented by Mark Davies in association with LexisPSL, is now available.

In this short update Mark considers:

  • Publication of the Environment Bill;
  • Environment Agency aims to become net carbon zero by 2030; and
  • New requirements for applicants for certain bespoke permits to carry out risk assessments on adapting to climate change.

 

Please find a link to October’s podcast here:-

 

Publication of the Environment Bill – listen from 0.32 mins

Environment Agency aims to become net carbon zero by 2030 – listen from 4.45mins

New requirements for applicants for certain bespoke permits to carry out risk assessments on adapting to climate change – listen from 7.33 mins

Environmental Law News Update

In this latest Environmental Law News Update Gordon Wignall, Christopher Badger and Natasha Hausdorff consider the recently published Environment Bill, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill and whether public nuisance might provide a means of taking action in cases of climate change.

 

The Environment Bill is published!

The Environment Bill runs to 233 pages and is too big to cover in any detail in this blog. We are proposing to analyse the Bill in some detail in a separate article to be published soon. However, we thought it would be worth highlighting just a few important aspects of the proposed new legislation.

Significantly the Bill includes provision for the Secretary of State to set, by regulations, long-term targets in respect of the environment, in respect of periods longer than 15 years. Those powers come with a requirement that targets be set in priority areas, including air quality, water, biodiversity, resource efficiency and waste reduction, and that such targets specify the date and standard that is to be achieved, which must be capable of being objectively measured. There is some concern about a lack of short-term targets and the potential unwanted consequence that there does not appear to be any provision for holding the Government to account on these targets until the year 2037.

In setting targets, the Bill requires that the Secretary of State seek advice from independent experts, but also envisages a cost benefit analysis concerning the setting of targets and the environmental, social, economic or other impact. The bill allows the Secretary of State, in filling in the gaps in a post Brexit regulatory environment, a great deal of flexibility.

Secondly, the proposed Office for Environmental Protection (“OEP”) is required to set out in a written strategy how the OEP intends to avoid any overlap with the Committee on Climate Change (“CCC”) and the strategy must include an enforcement policy that sets out amongst other things how it determines whether failures to comply with environmental law are serious. The first point is significant as the CCC has specifically raised concerns about interference in its current relationship with Parliament and a system that it considers works well. The second point is significant as this forms part of the critical threshold test that is likely to determine how effective the enforcement function of the OEP actually is in practice.

Finally, Ministers must now “have due regard to” the core environmental principles. It is questionable whether this is actually an improvement on the previous form of words that simply required Ministers to “have regard to” the principles.

There are other nuggets, if Parliament ever gets down to considering the Bill. Part 4 would strengthen Air Quality control powers. Parts 6 and 7 deal with Nature and Biodiversity issues. Part 6 would see the imposition of a complex planning condition on almost all new development in order to secure net gains, by means of a newly-styled ‘Biodiversity gain plan’. Part 7 would implement the Law Commission’s work on Conservation Covenants.

The Bill can be read in full here

 

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

In comparison the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill runs to a mere 110 pages. It doesn’t actually contain the word “environment” in the Bill, which may be one reason why Caroline Flint, Labour MP for Don Valley, asked the Prime Minister to write a “clear non-regression clause” into the Bill. The Prime Minister responded by making that commitment. During the debate in response to a question by Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, the Prime Minister claimed that the UK will not only match the environmental standards that Brussels brings forwards (implying a commitment to closer future alignment of environmental standards) but that the UK has the opportunity “to do better”. He highlighted this by referring to the possibility of strengthening controls on the transport of live animals, something that the PM stated is currently forbidden under EU law.

Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement explicitly contained a section on non-regression in the level of environmental protection (See Annex 4). Whilst we commented at the time (see here) on the lack of concrete commitments to particular environmental standards, it is interesting that the commitment to non-regression had been specifically removed from the latest Withdrawal Agreement.

Perhaps the answer is to be found in section 31 of the Withdrawal Agreement, which commits a statement on objectives for the future relationship with the EU to being consistent with the Political Declaration of 19 October 2019. That Political Declaration specifically refers to the need to ensure a “level playing field”, to prevent distortions of trade and unfair competitive advantages. To this end, there is a commitment to uphold and maintain the common high standards applicable on the environment.

The debate at second reading on the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill can be found here

The new Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration can be found here

 

Is direct legal action on its way?

Can the law of nuisance play a part in contemporary environmental concerns, or are legislative and regulatory developments all that we have?

Reports of real damage caused by climate change and air quality now make their way on to the front pages of all print and social media reports.

The Scotsman, amongst many newspapers this week, reported a study from Kings College London. This noted significant spikes of admissions to hospital on account of strokes, asthma and other acute conditions. These, along with 36,000 deaths a year are said to be attributable to air pollution.

Provisions are already in place to try and control the effects of contemporary causes of pollution, significantly traffic emissions. London’s emissions zone scheme is based ultimately on a series of complex statutory provisions allowing for charging. But this arguably does little more than mitigate the problem and it places no real control in the hands of individuals directly affected.

Public nuisance has traditionally provided a means for individuals to obtain remedies to control pollution. Given that highway authorities have ownership of the highways, it is difficult to see why parents of school-children, for instance, do not have direct private law rights to insist that highway authorities take real action to protect school areas. The likelihood is greater in London given the overall control exercised by TfL (see Southwark LBC v. Transport for London [2018] UKSC 63).

Certain NGOs have examined whether public nuisance might provide a means of taking action in cases of climate change around the globe (for instance in respect of rising sea levels). Causation and rules restricting ‘special damage’ make such actions impracticable. But now that we have more reliable evidence available, at least in the context of air quality, such as the KCL report, will we see individuals insisting on their private law rights in UK courts?

 

Six Pump Court shortlisted for Environment/Planning Set of the Year 2019 at the Chambers UK Bar Awards

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Environmental Law News Update

In this latest Environmental Law News Update William Upton QC, Christopher Badger and Natasha Hausdorff consider the Environment Agency’s aim to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2030, Mark Carney’s comments on climate risks and resilience and new Environment Agency guidance on climate change risk assessments for bespoke permits.

 

 

Getting to Net Zero earlier than 2050?

The Environment Agency has announced that it has set itself the aim of becoming a “net zero” organisation by 2030 – in the sense that its own activities and its supply chain are taking as much carbon out of the atmosphere as it is putting into it. The Agency has identified that offsetting will be part of this. It has calculated that its target would mean reducing the emissions of its own activities and supply chain by a further 45%, with the remaining emissions addressed through tree planting, restoring soil quality and peat bogs or other measures. This approach is perhaps more tailored to their situation, as a major part of its carbon contribution comes from building and maintaining flood defence works, rather than from its own buildings and travel demands.

The 2030 date that has been chosen is striking. It is twenty years in advance of the stated national target. The amendment made in the summer to the Climate Change Act 2008 is intended to ensure that the UK is carbon neutral by 2050. This date was based on the recommendation of the report of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on “Net Zero: The UK’s Contribution to stopping global warming” (May 2019), to meet the UK’s commitments as a signatory of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The CCC target relies on measures to reduce emissions through improved efficiency and new technology, as well as offsetting and carbon capture and storage. It also factors in future growth projections. The CCC Report states that existing policy must be ramped up significantly and that the CCC did not consider it credible for the UK to aim to reach net-zero emissions earlier than 2050.

The Agency’s announcement is therefore full of ambition. Indeed, it also included reference to wanting to explore whether it could become an “absolute zero” organisation by 2050 – one where the Agency activities and supply chain would produce no carbon at all. It may be that the Agency can identify sector-specific advantages that will allow them to achieve its targets much more quickly than others. It will certainly be leading the way if it can do so.

The announcement can be found here

 

Mark Carney on climate risks and resilience

Mark Carney’s speeches on climate risks and resilience have been prolific in recent weeks. On 24 September 2019, the Bank of England (BoE) published two speeches given by Mark Carney, Governor of the BoE in which he calls for climate risks and resilience to be brought into the heart of financial decision making. On 8 October 2019 he spoke at the inaugural TCFD Summit in Tokyo.

Across his speeches, Mr Carney has identified several areas for focus:

First, disclosure. Whilst highlighting the demand for disclosure in line with the framework set out by the Task Force on Climate-related Disclosures and improvements that have been made, Mr Carney called for disclosure to be made mandatory and to increase the quantity and quality of disclosures by sharing best practice. The UK government announced in its Green Strategy published this July that it expects all listed companies and large assets owners to report climate risks by 2022, and a joint taskforce is currently considering the most appropriate path to mandatory disclosure.

Second, refining TCFD disclosure recommendations to those that investors consider most “decision-useful”. There needs to be a definitive view on what counts as a high-quality disclosure before they can become mandatory. Inconsistent measurement of ESG is one of the biggest hurdles and we need a common taxonomy to help financial markets rigorously identify environmental outperformance and to direct investment accordingly.

Third, risk management. The providers of capital and those who supervise them all need to improve their understanding and management of climate-related financial risks. Changes in climate policies, new technologies and growing physical risks will prompt reassessments of the values of virtually every financial asset. The Bank of England has just set out its supervisory expectations for the governance, management and disclosure of climate-related financial risks by banks and insurers.

Finally, to consider how asset owners could best disclose how well their portfolios are positioned for the transition to net zero. Sustainable investing must catalyse and support all companies that are working to transition from brown to green. It is not simply about financing green technology. Such “tilt” investment strategies, which overweigh high environmental, social and governance (ESG) stocks and “momentum” investment strategies, which focus on companies that have improved their ESG rating, have outperformed global benchmarks for close to a decade. The mainstreaming of such strategies and the tools to pursue them are essential.

The recent speeches by Mark Carney are all published by the Bank of England and can be found here:

https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/speech/2019/remarks-given-during-the-un-secretary-generals-climate-actions-summit-2019-mark-carney.pdf

https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/speech/2019/tcfd-strengthening-the-foundations-of-sustainable-finance-speech-by-mark-carney.pdf

 

Environment Agency guidance on climate change risk assessments for bespoke permits

On 3 October 2019, the Environment Agency published ‘Adapting to climate change: risk assessment for your environmental permit’, guidance on completing a risk assessment on adapting to climate change as part of the application procedure for Environmental Permits.

Applicants must undertake a climate change risk assessment for any new bespoke waste and intensive farming installation permit applications, if they expect to operate for more than five years. A risk assessment must be completed even if the site is not expected to be operational in 2050. Applicants need to calculate their climate change risk screening score when completing the new permit or intensive farming installation application from.

The appropriate worksheet, based on the relevant river basin and climate projection data for the site’s location, must be filled in. Each worksheet lists potential changes in weather and climate that may occur between now and 2050, but other climate variables that could impact operations can be included. Examples of completed risk assessment worksheets appear on the gov.uk website, along with a facility to search the catchment data according to post code.

Applicants are asked to consider critical thresholds (where a ‘tipping point’ is reached, for example a specific temperature where site processes cannot operate safely), changes to averages (for example an entire summer of higher than expected rainfall that causes waterlogging) and locations where hazards may combine to cause a greater impact. The applicant must first assess the impact from each of the weather and climate change scenarios to determine a risk score, which reflects the likelihood of something happening multiplied by the severity of its impact.

Those applicants with risk scores of 5 or more must propose mitigation measures and then re-assess the risk taking the mitigation measures into account, submitting the climate change risk assessment alongside the application form. Those scoring less than five will still need to complete the risk assessment and retain it as part of the environmental management system, referring to it in the management plan summary submitted with the application. The Environment Agency may apply conditions to some permits to manage climate change risks, and may ask the applicant to provide a more detailed assessment in the future.

 

The forthcoming Environment Bill has been flagged in the Queen’s Speech, intended to introduce legally binding environmental improvement targets. A summary of the intended content can be found here. We will look at this in more detail once its timing and draft is actually published.

 

Six Pump Court shortlisted for Environment/Planning Set of the Year 2019 at the Chambers UK Bar Awards

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Environmental Law News Update

In this latest Environmental Law News Update Christopher Badger considers Ofwat’s new strategy, the publication of a new report on climate benchmarks by the EU Technical Expert Group and a new Environment Agency consultation on the new standard rules permits.

 

Ofwat publishes new strategy

On 8 October 2019 Ofwat published its new strategy to drive progress in the water sector, both now and over the longer term. It is intended to ensure that the organisation remains focused on sustaining progress over decades to come.

It has set itself three goals for the coming years:

  • To transform water companies’ performance
  • To drive water companies to meet long term challenges through increased collaboration and partnerships
  • For water companies to provide greater public value, delivering more for customers, society and the environment.

The document reads like an ambitious wish list. It refers to the need for a “laser focus on driving up performance and efficiency”, the “need to innovate”, securing legitimacy and goodwill by embedding a “wider public purpose” and unlocking the “full potential of their people”. However, within the strategy are key issues that need to be addressed, including:

Innovation. There remains significant untapped opportunities to trial and adopt new practices and technology to improve performance. Ofwat is going to trial a “one-stop-shop” to give regulatory advice to anyone looking to get innovations off the ground.

Open data. Making data freely available for everyone to access, use and share. This is intended to improve transparency with customers and build trust in the water companies.

Acting on the information held by Ofwat. Referred to as “insights”, Ofwat has recognised that it needs to understand what progress, if any, is being made in improving performance and meeting aspirations.

Providing greater public value. For water companies, it is suggested that a stronger focus on public purpose could help them rebuild legitimacy in the eyes of the public and engage with others to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

One proposal put forward by Ofwat is that it will develop a framework to understand social and environmental value. While it is intended to provide space for water companies to consider for themselves how to embed a public purpose, it appears inevitable that in light of the importance of environmental issues to the wider community, this is only going to get more important.

The full strategy can be found here

 

EU Technical Expert Group publishes report on climate benchmarks

On 30 September 2019 the EU Technical Expert Group on sustainable finance published its final report on two new types of climate benchmarks and the definition of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) disclosure requirements that shall be applicable to all investment benchmarks.

Why is this important? The EU is a leading driver of Financing Sustainable Growth. Through standardised ESG disclosures, comparability between any benchmarks on the level of sustainability will be improved. Transparency and comparability can lead to a greater uptake of ESG indices, which leads to more sustainable investment, which improves disclosure. The report recognises the need to align investment portfolios to the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Investors using these new types of benchmark not only intend to hedge against climate transition risks but also direct their investments towards opportunities related to the energy transition. EU Paris Aligned Benchmarks (EU PABs) are designed for highly ambitious climate-related investment strategies. EU Climate Transition Benchmarks (EU CTBs) allow for greater diversification and serve the needs for institutional investors in their core asset allocation.

Key criteria that have to be met to qualify as an EU CTB or an EU PAB include:

  • Climate benchmarks must demonstrate a significant decrease in GHG emissions intensity compared to their underlying investment universes or parent indices. Minimum relative decarbonisation is set at 30% for EU CTBs and 50% for EU PABs;
  • Climate benchmarks must be sufficiently exposed to sectors relevant to the fight against climate change. You cannot just take into account sectors with an inherently limited impact on the environment.
  • Climate benchmarks must demonstrate their ability to reduce their own GHG emissions intensity on an annual basis.

The Technical Expert Group proposes to set out disclosure requirements based on how the market currently understands that ESG and climate-related considerations can be integrated in the valuation of assets across various asset classes. Its final report will serve as basis to the drafting of delegated acts to an amending Regulation expected to be published by November 2019.

The summary of the report can be found here

The full report can be found here

 

Environment Agency consults on new standard rules permits

On 1 October 2019, the Environment Agency published ‘Standard Rules Consultation no 21’. As a consequence of an earlier consultation published in 2018 aimed at reducing waste crime, it is proposed to make a number of revisions to the waste exemption regime. This includes the withdrawal of three exemptions: T8 (mechanically treating end-of-life tyres), T9 (recovering scrap metal) and U16 (using depolluted ELV vehicles for parts) as well as the reduction of waste quantities (for example paper) and the removal of waste types (for example used mattresses) in certain other exemptions. The result is that more activities will become regulated by environmental permits.

This consultation proposes three new standard rules permits relating to the treatment of waste tyres for recovery, treatment of waste mattresses for recovery and the treatment of waste paper, cardboard and plastic for recovery, together with generic risk assessments for the new rules sets.

SR2019 No 6 – Treatment of waste tyres for recovery

This standard rules set will allow the operator to:

  • operate a tyre recovery facility at a specified location;
  • accept end-of-life tyres and shredded/granulated end-of-life tyres only;
  • accept no more than 3,500 tonnes of waste each year. The combined storage limit of all wastes stored on the site at any one time is limited to 60 tonnes (approximately 1,200 commercial tyres or 4,800 car or van tyres).
  • carry out treatment which must only be for waste recovery, and must be done indoors. Treatment is limited to cleaning tyres and separating from rims, re-treading tyres for re-use, baling, shredding, peeling, shaving, or granulating.

SR2019 No 4 – Treatment of waste mattresses for recovery

This standard rules set will allow the operator to:

  • operate a mattress recovery facility at a specified location;
  • only accept waste mattresses;
  • accept no more than 3,500 tonnes of waste each year. The operator can store no more than 220 tonnes of waste on the site at any one time;
  • carry out treatment which must be for waste recovery only. Treatment is limited to sorting, separation, baling, crumbing and shredding. Storage and treatment of waste must be indoors, except for specified wastes.

SR2019 No 5 – Treatment of waste paper, cardboard and plastic for recovery

This standard rules set will allow the operator to:

  • operate a paper, cardboard and plastic recovery facility at a specified location;
  • accept waste paper and cardboard and plastic only;
  • accept no more than 75,000 tonnes of waste each year. The operator can store no more than 1,500 tonnes of waste on site at any one time. It must be stored inside unless it is a specified waste;
  • carry out treatment which must be for waste recovery only. Treatment is limited to sorting, shredding, cutting, bale-breaking and baling, and must be performed indoors.

The consultation sets out the proposed charges associated with each standard rules permit and the questions are fairly wide-ranging. No information is provided on the likely business impact but the consultation records that in accordance with the Growth Duty, the Environment Agency is carrying out an assessment of the financial impacts of these proposed new permits. It is worth noting that the limitations on the storage of waste imposed by the standard rules permit for waste paper – this will necessitate quick turnaround times for sites operating under these rules, as well as the need for reliable end markets. Operators will need to be alert to potential problems, particularly if operating at capacity.

The deadline for responding to the consultation is 24 December 2019. It is proposed that the new standard rules permits and risk assessments will be published in March 2020.

The consultation can be found here

 

Six Pump Court shortlisted for Environment/Planning Set of the Year 2019 at the Chambers UK Bar Awards

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Environmental Law Podcast – September 2019

The latest monthly environmental law news podcast presented by Christopher Badger in association with LexisPSL, is now available.

In this short update Chris considers and discusses:

  • The end of austerity and what this means for the environment
  • News that Glasgow will host the COP 26 climate summit
  • Mark Carney’s calls for climate risks and resilience to be brought into the heart of financial decision making

Please find a link to September’s podcast here:-

 

 

The end of austerity and what this means for the environment – listen from 0.33 mins

Glasgow to host the COP 26 climate summit – listen from 3.47 mins

Mark Carney’s calls for climate risks and resilience to be brought into the heart of financial decision making – listen from 6.06 mins

 

Environmental Law News Update

In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Mark Davies considers environmental developments in Scotland, a new fisheries agreement with Norway and acquittal of French climate protestors.

 

Environmental developments in Scotland

A big week for environmental law in Scotland, starting with the passing of the Climate Change Bill by MSPs on 26 September. Passed by 113 votes to zero (the Scottish Green MSPs abstaining after Holyrood failed to back a target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2030) the Bill introduces a target of a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030 following an amendment proposed by Scottish Labour MSP Claudia Beamish. The Bill also contains a target for Scotland to become a net-zero society by 2045, meaning Scotland’s target will be more stringent that that announced by Theresa May in one of her last acts as Prime Minister, which commits the UK to achieving net-zero by 2050.

Other additions in Scotland’s new Climate Change Bill are the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change to enable recommendations to be made on how a net-zero transition will be achieved and a requirement for Ministers to report annually on the progress being made in each sector.

One such way the Scottish Government is looking at meeting its proposed new targets is by reforming planning laws. Under proposals announced yesterday by Planning Minister Kevin Stewart, developments such as local renewable energy projects or electric vehicle charging points would bypass the need for planning permission. He stated, “Planning has a key role to play in addressing climate change and radically reducing our emissions. Removing red tape from some of the highest priority projects can be a big step towards our goal of a net-zero carbon future.”

If these proposals are brought forward it will presumably require serious amendment of National Planning Framework 3, which published in 2014 and sets out Scotland’s long-term vision for development and investment across the country.

South of the border, Westminster is ever-keen on tinkering with the planning system (much to the dismay of many) so it will be interesting to see whether England follows suit.

 

UK signs fisheries agreement with Norway

On 30 September the UK and Norwegian governments signed an agreement ensuring that UK fisherman will continue to have access to fish in Norwegian waters after (perhaps better considered as ‘if’) the UK leaves the EU on 31 October. The agreement protects rights that UK fisherman currently enjoy derived from an agreement between the EU and Norway, with those rights having been set to cease when the UK becomes an independent coastal state.

All sounding very promising! …until one realises that the agreement signed yesterday will ensure the existing arrangements between the UK and Norway will remain in place until the end of 2019. No detail is provided as to what will happen in 2020 or beyond and one surely has to raise the concern that all this provides is two months of security.

The arrangement is to:

  • Honour the existing access arrangements agreed between the UK and Norway;
  • Ensure that appropriate licencing, control and enforcement provisions are in place (copying the current EU/Norway model);
  • Honour the management decisions that were made with Norway for 2019 for North Sea stocks that are jointly managed; and
  • Honour the existing quota exchanges for 2019.

The licensing of vessels is to be undertaken by a new licensing authority, the Single Issuing Authority, which (and the clue is in the name) will operate for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that fisherman have the correct licence to fish legally after (again, perhaps better considered as ‘if’) the UK leaves the EU.

Vessels over 12-metres will require an IMO number and are encouraged to register for one now to ensure licence documentation is processed in time.

The Government’s press release may be found here

 

Judge Gilets Vertes acquits climate crisis protestors

Finally, on a lighter note, a judge (note not actually called Gilets Vertes) in Lyon acquitted two climate crisis protesters who removed Emmanuel Macron’s portrait from an official building. 20 activists had reportedly entered the town hall in a district of the city with miscreants Fanny Delahalle and Pierre Goinciv removing the President’s gold-framed picture and posing with it outside.

Prosecutors sought a fine of EUR 500 for theft, arguing that the protestors had done nothing to help climate change. The Judge, although accepting of the fact that an “object of very strong symbolic value” had been stolen, is said to have concluded that the climate crisis was more serious.

He is reported to have found that “Climate change is a constant that seriously affects the future of humanity by provoking natural catastrophes that poorer countries don’t have the means to protect themselves against… If France has undertaken internally… to respect objectives as the government has, objectives that are probably insufficient but are at least necessary, the documents produced by the defence testify that these objectives will not be reached.”

In his judgment, the ‘intrusion’ into the town hall had only caused a limited disturbance and that they constituted a “legitimate call on the president”.

Rather unsportingly, although perhaps unsurprisingly, the public prosecutor’s office has apparently said it will appeal the decision.

 

Six Pump Court shortlisted for Environment/Planning Set of the Year 2019 at the Chambers UK Bar Awards

 

To keep up-to-date click here to subscribe to the mailing list. If you have any comments or suggestions please contact Bridget Tough at bridget.tough@6pumpcourt.co.uk