Environmental Law News Update

In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Christopher Badger, Nicholas Ostrowski and James Harrison consider progress made at COP26, a major investigation into sewage treatment works by Ofwat and the EA, the new Environment Act and our Environmental Law Conference next week.

COP26

COP 26 has now finished, with mixed views on whether or not progress has been made. We take a look at some of the passages from the final text, with our own analysis. Passages in italics are taken directly from the final text.

“29. Recalls Article 3 and Article 4, paragraphs 3, 4, 5 and 11, of the Paris Agreement and requests Parties to revisit and strengthen the 2030 targets in their nationally determined contributions as necessary to align with the Paris Agreement temperature goal by the end of 2022, taking into account different national circumstances.”

It was requested that countries will meet next year to pledge further cuts to emissions of carbon dioxide. This is both a positive and a negative. It reflects the fact that on one view, little progress was made on establishing plans to make the necessary reductions in emissions agreed under Paris. But at least that might be revisited next year. That reflects a departure from the previous requirement to only submit new or updated plans every five years.

“36. Calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up the deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures, including accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, recognizing the need for support towards a just transition.”

This is the plan to “phase-down” the use of coal. The explicit mention of “coal” and “fossil fuel subsidies” is a break from previous agreements. But what does “unabated coal power” mean? Presumably “support for a just transition” refers to financial support for polluting industries. And the world’s countries couldn’t agree on a “phase-out”. The word “phase-down” reflected a change of wording when both China and India both objected to the use of the words “phase-out”. “Inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” reflects an agreement to phase down subsidies that artificially lower the price of coal, oil or natural gas but it can be seen that no date has been set.

44. Notes with deep regret that the goal of developed country Parties to mobilize jointly USD 100 billion per year by 2020 in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation has not yet been met, and welcomes the increased pledges made by many developed country Parties and the Climate Finance Delivery Plan: Meeting the US$100 Billion Goal and the collective actions contained therein;

Developed countries missed the $100 billion target of climate finance that ought to have gone to developing countries by 2020 under the Paris Agreement. In its place, there is a pledge to significantly increase money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change and make the switch to clean energy. There is a prospect of a trillion dollar a year fund from 2025.

73. Decides to establish the Glasgow Dialogue between Parties, relevant organizations and stakeholders to discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimize and address loss and damage associated with the adverse impacts of climate change, to take place in the first sessional period of each year of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation, concluding at its sixtieth session (June 2024);

It was agreed that there will be further dialogue about “loss and damage”, a collective term for the impacts that climate change has already had. The final text recognises that climate change has already caused loss and damage but the bottom line is that the world’s richer countries don’t want to be held liable for that “loss and damage”.

“78. Recalls the Katowice climate package, and welcomes with appreciation the completion of the Paris Agreement work programme20, including the adoption of decisions on the following:

78 (b) Methodological issues relating to the enhanced transparency framework for action and support referred to in Article 13 of the Paris Agreement (decision -/CMA.3);

78 (f) Rules, modalities and procedures for the mechanism established by Article 6, paragraph 4 of the Paris Agreement (decision -/CMA.”

78 (b) reflects an agreement on a single transparency standard, important for how countries should report on their emissions under the Paris agreement. 78 (f) reflects the creation of internationally controlled standards to avoid the same emissions reductions being claimed by multiple countries or companies and to tackle false reduction credits in a carbon market. Nonetheless, concerns remain over the integrity of the market and the extent to which it will actually contribute to carbon reduction.

COP 26 closed claiming that 1.5 remained within reach. Whilst, objectively, that appears very much to be in doubt, there is no alternative but to keep trying to make progress.

Major investigation into sewage treatment works begun by Ofwat and the EA

The biggest water story in 2021, that of allegations of unauthorised sewage discharges by water companies, continues to run and run.

The latest instalment in the saga came on 18 November 2021 when the Environment Agency and Ofwat launched what they both described as a ‘major’ investigation into sewage treatment works. This investigation is said to be looking into 2000 sewage treatment works where the Environment Agency and Ofwat are concerned that water companies are discharging effluent into watercourses in excess of environmental permits. The specific allegations which are being explored are whether at these 2000 sewage treatment works ‘the companies are complying properly with the conditions in their permits on the volumes of sewage they must treat before they are allowed to divert any untreated sewage to storm overflows.’

While this has been welcomed by interested groups, many are suggesting that this investigation is long overdue as they have claimed for years that despite apparently stringent terms in permits, water companies are, in practice, diverting polluted water from sewage treatment works and discharging them into watercourses from stormwater outfalls or similar after very minimal (or in some cases no) recent rainfall. The statements from Fish Legal and Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) are particularly interesting in asking why it has taken so long to begin such an investigation.

In a recognition of the political and social impact which water pollution is having, the language used by the chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd is noticeably assertive: ‘This shows why we need robust and well-funded regulation to provide the public, investors and customers with assurances about what is being delivered on the ground. I would like to see the levels of penalties for corporate environmental crime in England go up significantly. More attention should also be paid to the directors of companies that are guilty of repeated, deliberate or reckless breaches of environmental law. Such directors should be struck off and in the most grievous cases given custodial sentences.’

Environment Act 2021: a short summary

Last week the Environment Act 2021 became another piece of ‘world-leading’ legislation. Environment Secretary, George Eustice, stated that the new Act “will deliver the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth”. The Act is intended to clean up the air, restore habitats, increase biodiversity, reduce waste, halt species decline, tackle deforestation, and encourage better use of resources.

The Act is notable for the way in which it provides something of a ‘one-stop shop’ for environmental issues. Top-level policy is impacted by the Act through the requirement to set long-term targets and the need for ministers to consider five key (reassuringly familiar) principles when making policy – the integration principle, the prevention principle, the rectification at source principle, the polluter pays principle and the precautionary principle. At a regional level there are requirements outlined in several areas such as the requirement for local councils to establish regular recycling (DEFRA wants to recycle at least 65% of municipal waste by 2035). There is something for businesses and for individuals, too: for example, the encouragement to use sustainable packaging and to use deposit return schemes for drink containers, respectively. Finally, international issues feature such as provisions intended to stop the export of polluting plastic waste to developing countries.

Joined-up thinking is also clear in the way that ‘classic’ environmental issues such as targets for particulate pollution rub alongside biodiversity targets. Under s 1 of the Act, long-term targets to improve air quality, biodiversity, water, and waste reduction and resource efficiency must be set, including a target on ambient PM2.5 concentrations, the most harmful pollutant to human health. The government is obliged to propose the targets before the end of 2022. Interim targets are intended to increase accountability and ensure that steady progress is made, which in the view of this author is essential to avoid undue reliance upon the hope of future exponential improvement that is contingent on future technologies. Alongside these targets, the UK has become the first country with a legal target to halt wildlife decline by 2030. There is impetus to take steps towards “net zero for nature” ahead of Convention on Biological Diversity negotiations next year. However, despite this positive step the issue of biodiversity loss is likely to remain something of a political battleground; on 2 September 2020 Caroline Lucas tabled a private members bill entitled ‘Climate and Ecology Bill,’ which would establish a Citizens’ Assembly to help set biodiversity and climate strategy.

Related to several recent posts in this blog, the Act will crack down on water companies that discharge sewage into rivers, waterways, and coastlines. A duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows. However, this did not go as far as amendments tabled by peers in the House of Lords, and the reference to ‘progressively reducing impacts’ is argued by critics to undermine the protections derived from EU law which place an obligation on water companies to avoid spills from storm water overflows save for in exceptional circumstances. On this score it may be a case of waiting until the muddle settles to see if the water is clear…

Finally, as has been outlined in the blog previously, government and public bodies are to be held to account by the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP). An interim OEP has been operative since July and the OEP proper will formally commence its statutory functions early in 2022. There remained concerns in the House of Lords as to the independence of the OEP. Groups such as Green Alliance suggested that the Act permits environment secretaries to “interfere in [the] independent process examining whether secretaries of state or public authorities have failed to uphold laws relating to water pollution, air quality or the marine environment”. As above, only time will tell whether these concerns are well founded.

For those looking for a little more information….Alongside Professor Richard Macrory QC, Six Pump Court’s Chris Badger is currently producing a companion guide for the new Act, which will assist in the interpretation of specific sections. The book is planned to be released soon.

Environmental Law Conference – next week

Join Six Pump Court’s hybrid Environmental Law Conference next week on Friday 3rd December 2021 either in-person or online to hear from our specialist counsel and leading experts on current issues in environmental law and climate change. **Discounts are available for multiple bookings from the same organisation and for public sector/NGO delegates**.

The full programme and confirmed speakers including from DBEIS, Linklaters, Aarhus University, Bank of America, Addleshaw Goddard, and CMS Cameron McKenna, are available here. The event will incorporate speaker panels and Q&A on the Environment Bill, Water Law, Carbon Capture and Storage and Climate Change (drivers of corporate behaviour, and litigation). Professor Richard Macrory will give the keynote address.

For those attending in-person, the conference will take place in the new Ashworth Centre at Lincoln’s Inn on 3rd December from 9am to 5pm. It will be simultaneously livestreamed, so that online delegates can follow the main panel presentations and Q&A online.

Discounts are now available for multiple bookings from the same organisation – booking information and prices here

To keep up-to-date follow us on Twitter @6pumpcourt or 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

Environmental Law News Update

In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Charles Morgan, Gordon Wignall and Brendon Moorhouse consider sewage discharges from overflows, the role of the Human Rights Act in the Silverdale Quarry case, and the need for climate policy to be built into the planning process.

You get what you [are believed to be prepared to] pay for or “Carry On Spilling”

Cost-benefit assessment (“CBA”) is important. There is no point in spending money for little or no benefit, and where there are competing approaches CBA provides a methodology for the ranking by efficacy of competing claims for limited funds or different proposed methods of achieving the same end. This is usually done by first reaching (in a complex manner) a financial valuation of benefits and costs and then expressing the ratio of one to the other and comparing the results. It is also possible to go further and to fix, either generally or in the context of a specific scheme, a minimum ratio which will be regarded as acceptable before a project is given the “green light” at all.

CBA is also a dark art. It might involve lots of numbers and calculations but it also involves lots of non-quantitative value judgments. It is therefore very susceptible to variability of outcome. This is why it is widely regarded as better suited to the task of relative ranking rather than absolute determination of the worth of a standalone project.

In the context of sewage discharges from overflows, the somewhat “fluffy” nature of CBA may be illustrated by a couple of examples. If you take the person in the street and lead them to their local watercourse and show them a nasty spill in progress, then ask them if they would be willing to pay the extra £5 per year on their water charges needed to stop it, they are quite likely to say “yes” (the “willing to pay” method of benefits valuation). But when you tell them that the same stretch of watercourse is afflicted by 20 similar overflows, each of which will need similar expenditure in rectification, they are likely to baulk at the cumulative cost. If you then tell them that they will also be asked to pay something in respect of many other watercourses of which they have no personal knowledge and in which they have little or no personal interest, but which have equally compelling needs, enthusiasm will wane further. So how do you value the benefits of the scheme? And how much relative value do you applying to each of several differing benefits, such as suitability for swimming, habitat preservation and amenity value? Etc, etc.

These tasks, among others, are attempted in the report “Storm Overflow Evidence Project” commissioned by the Storm Overflow Taskforce, which comprises representatives of sewerage undertakers, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, Defra and others. The scope of the project was to quantify the harm storm overflows cause inland rivers in England today and in 2050 and to estimate the comparative costs and benefits of doing various things to improve the existing infrastructure, which is euphemistically described as “pragmatic and affordable”. The report’s basic conclusion is that a zero spill solution would cost between £350 billion and £600 billion, whilst identifying cheaper, partial solutions. BUT: “taking into account social, public health and ecological benefits, none of the policies and scenarios examined are cost-beneficial when assessed nationally.” It acknowledges that much further work of assessment remains to be done. Its 120 pages contain a wealth of information about the various possible solutions and their pros and cons and the results of research into public attitudes (headline: sewage pollution isn’t actually a matter of the greatest public concern). The puerile mind will also enjoy the inclusion of a Case Study on the “Piddle Valley Sewers” (not one of Dorset’s best-known tourist attractions).

It seems inevitable that the report’s timely conclusions fed into last night’s rejection by the House of Commons, during debate on the Environment Bill, of any imposition on the undertakers of a strict duty to achieve zero spills, substituting instead a duty of progressive reduction, despite the undertakers’ own willingness to accept the absolute duty – on the basis, of course, that they would be entitled to put up their bills to pay for it, thereby increasing the capital on which they are statutorily entitled to a reasonable return (s. 2(2A)(c), Water Industry Act 1991). The political view seems to be that the cost to consumers is unacceptable and unjustified.

An article by Charles Morgan on the use of cost-benefit analysis in the context of the regulation of the water industry can be found here Cost-Benefit Analysis – Is It Worth It

The Silverdale Quarry case – the Human Rights Act as a new language for environmental regulation

The judgment in R (Matthew Richards) v. (1) The Environment Agency, (2) Walleys Quarry  [2021] EWHC 2501 (Admin), 16 September 2021 resolved a complaint by young child who had been very prematurely born and left with serious beathing disorder which threatened to develop and shorten his life.

The child brought a judicial review complaining about the lack of regulatory steps by the Agency to control levels of hydrogen sulphide which greatly troubled the local community in 2021 after the landfill site increased its permit limit to accept 400,000 rather than 250,000 tonnes of waste per annum.

The claims were made under Arts. 2 and 8, European Convention on Human Rights.  Fordham J accepted that the EA (i) had a considerable margin of appreciation in inquiring and appraising what was wrong and in identifying the steps it should take, (ii) had adequately assessed the emissions from the site and properly taken advice from Public Health England; but, (iii) it had failed to demonstrate that any individual officer had devised a plan in accordance with the PHE recommendation.

As the judge said: “There is a what, and a when.  There is also a who.  The discipline involves someone taking responsibility for the exercise of judgment. …The Court has thousands of pages of material and yet there is no document before the Court which adopts that discipline or begins to do so.  I find it impossible to imagine that the discipline could be performed without some document somewhere reflecting that this was what was being done”.

On the face of it, this it might be said that this is a conventional judgment which the Environment Agency lost on the evidence (it admitted (i) and (ii) of the above).  But it is the steps on the journey which are more interesting, this summary not doing the judgment justice.

The judge has laid out a new way of thinking about the Agency’s duties. ECtHR judgments show that the Agency has an ‘operational duty’, as part of the UK’s ‘framework duty’, to ensure that Arts. 2 and 8 are met.  The ‘operational duty’ will be assessed according to whether the obligation is historic or on-going.

Troublingly for regulated companies, if there is an accepted guideline standard which lowers the future threshold at which pollution will be assessed as occurring, the Agency will be obliged to regulate with that threshold in mind, by reference to the date on which that threshold comes into force.  This will resonate for many regulated industries as climate change and sustainability targets take hold.

Of advantage to regulated companies, the Court’s expressions of the importance of Human Rights obligations in this case will constitute a useful source of grounds of challenge in criminal and civil courts and in tribunals. There are some particularly fruitful comments about the “the duty of sufficient enquiry” in the context of the Agency’s regulatory decision-making.  

This was the second Agency judicial review case in 12 months in which the Court was prepared to assess the merits of individual cases (see Safety-Kleen UK Ltd v. Environment Agency [2020] EWHC 3147 (Admin).

The Agency was obliged to pay one third of the Claimant’s costs, giving some broad indication of how the judge saw success and failure in the case.

COP, carbon and planning

Whatever the final outcome of the COP26 conference in Glasgow, it is apparent that significant grass-roots change will be necessary to address the rapidly looming climate deadlines – both legal (such as the ‘net zero’ obligation in Section 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008) and environmentally imposed deadlines through the direct impacts and costs of global warming – extreme weather events, flooding, uncontrolled fires and land lost to sea level changes being some of those anticipated.

Winston Churchill (and Benjamin Franklin) is credited with saying that “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” In relation to the carbon budget and climate change, there has been little co-ordinated planning to address the largest sector contributors to global warming – energy, business, transport (now including aviation since the 6th Carbon budget), public sector buildings, residential emissions and agriculture.

The decentralised approach of central government, encouraging local decisions over a centralised approach, has resulted in a patchwork of decision-making. Examples of this abound in all areas. One of the most significant being aviation where, for example, there has been a refusal to call in the Bristol Airport appeal against the local authorities’ refusal to permit further expansion on, amongst other things, climate change grounds. Such an approach has meant that, using the aviation sector example, existing planning approvals already exceed the expected efficiency gains in the aviation sector by 2050 – meaning that if all of these approvals are taken up, that there will be no net aviation carbon reduction and that other sectors will have to shoulder a greater proportion of the burden if the governments legal obligation is to be met.

At local council level there is recognition that the plethora of ‘climate emergency’ resolutions, with subsequent action being limited to council owned buildings and vehicles, is insufficient to deal with the statutory targets and that climate policy needs to be built into the planning process.

Section 19(1A) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires that “Development plan documents must (taken as a whole) include policies designed to secure that the development and use of land in the local planning authority’s area contribute to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.”

In October 2021, The Royal Town Planning Institute and the Town and Country Planning Association published an updated document: “‘The climate crisis’ A guide for local authorities on planning for climate change.” The guide was designed to address the organisation’s opinion “that climate change should be the top priority for planning across the UK. This is simply because the impacts of flooding, overheating and other consequences of climate change stand in the way of everything else we want to achieve in terms of the creation of vibrant communities and a sustainable and just society.” See here.

The guide contains many practical recommendations including suggestions that authorities recast local plans to include, over and above alterations to Building Regulation requirements an expectation that embodied carbon (building materials and construction and maintenance carbon cost) calculations become a requirement within planning applications with:-

  • Recommendations that all developments take demonstrable action to reduce embodied carbon through design and re-use with the provision of a circular economy statement
  • Major developments requirement to calculate a whole life carbon emission for the project
  • And for performance changes as between design and as-built embodied carbon assessments be recorded through a system such as that operated by RICS Building Carbon Database.

The expectation is that in order to meet the carbon obligations future homes will be built to a zero-carbon standard – fossil fuel free for heating, and ‘future proofing’ existing homes with low carbon heating and high levels of energy efficiency.

The suggestions also include:

  • Encouragement of renewable local energy production
  • Encouraging local planning for modal shift towards sustainable transport.
  • Encouraging the use of reasonable worst-case planning for climate eventualities – which could have a significant impact on permissible locations of development

Whether adopted on a national scale through building regulation requirements, or implemented through ad hoc local plans, or both, there is every prospect that key environmental features of ‘sustainable development’ will in many local authority areas increasingly include the requirement for quantifiable embodied carbon calculations in addition to terrestrial biodiversity net gain requirements in the Environment Bill (already existing in Marine planning).

Keeping on the theme of Winston Churchill quotes and moving from current events in Glasgow to Dundee almost 100 years ago, in 1908, when Churchill was the Liberal MP for Dundee he was to say: “What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” Plus ça change.

Environmental Law Conference – 3rd December

Join Six Pump Court’s hybrid Environmental Law Conference on Friday 3rd December 2021 to hear from our specialist counsel and leading experts on current issues in environmental law and climate change.

The full programme and confirmed speakers including from DBEIS, Linklaters, Aarhus University, Bank of America, Addleshaw Goddard, and CMS Cameron McKenna, are available here. The event will incorporate speaker panels and Q&A on the Environment Bill, Water Law, Carbon Capture and Storage and Climate Change (drivers of corporate behaviour, and litigation). Professor Richard Macrory will give the keynote address.

The in-person conference will take place in the new Ashworth Centre at Lincoln’s Inn on 3rd December from 9am to 5pm and will be livestreamed, so that delegates who cannot or do not wish to attend in person will be able to follow the main panel presentations and Q&A online.

Discounts are now available for multiple bookings from the same organisation with prices for the third booking and further tickets – booking information and prices here.

To keep up-to-date follow us on Twitter @6pumpcourt or 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

Environmental Law News Update

In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Charles Morgan, Christopher Badger and Nicholas Ostrowski consider economic incentives for water companies to improve environmental performance, a short guide to COP26 and Six Pump Court’s inaugural Environmental Law Conference to be held next month.

The Land Of Make Believe

Defra has suggested in its consultation on the draft Strategic Priority Statement for Ofwat that water companies should receive economic incentives to improve environmental performance to meet EA requirements. The Environmental Audit Committee is ”disturbed to note” this, particularly in relation to sewage discharges (which have been in the limelight for some months now, to the surprise and delight of those of us who practise in the usually stagnant creek of these murky waters).

Having Brexited, we are now free if we wish to adopt the laws of the empire of Lilliput, as described by Jonathan Swift in Chapter 6 of Gulliver’s Travels:

Although we usually call reward and punishment the two hinges upon which all government turns, yet I could never observe this maxim to be put in practice by any nation except that of Lilliput. Whoever can there bring sufficient proof, that he has strictly observed the laws of his country for seventy-three moons, has a claim to certain privileges, according to his quality or condition of life, with a proportionable sum of money out of a fund appropriated for that use: he likewise acquires the title of snilpall, or legal, which is added to his name, but does not descend to his posterity. And these people thought it a prodigious defect of policy among us, when I told them that our laws were enforced only by penalties, without any mention of reward. It is upon this account that the image of Justice, in their courts of judicature, is formed with six eyes, two before, as many behind, and on each side one, to signify circumspection; with a bag of gold open in her right hand, and a sword sheathed in her left, to show she is more disposed to reward than to punish.”

One significant difference between the Liliputian system and the one proposed is that the former incentivised all good citizens, whereas Defra’s model does not extend beyond water and sewerage undertakers, who are perhaps unlikely to be perceived by the public as uniquely deserving of such a reward. The more so if the basis for singling them out has been the extent of their non-compliance to date. Nevertheless, if the Lilliputian model were to be exactly emulated and followed by the companies, the public gain would be 73 moons of cleaner rivers. The length of a Lilliputian moon is unknown without further research (which time does not permit), and the value which the companies would attach to the title of “snilpall” is debatable. The success of the proposal thus seems likely to be dependent upon a very large financial carrot (“open bag of gold”) being dangled from the stick which is so rarely wielded in anger, like the sheathed sword of Justice.

Another difference between Lilliput and the UK is that one of them is, like Utopia, a fictitious country.

COP26 – A Noddy’s guide

The COP 26 carnival in Glasgow is very much in the news but, except for those international environmental lawyers amongst our readership (hello!), practitioners may not have kept up with what, exactly, the COP26 is trying to achieve. This is intended as a short introduction to the event and what it’s all about.

This is the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) about global climate issues. The ‘climate COPs’ have met annually since 1995. COP26 aims to bring countries together to agree a comprehensive plan that takes forward coordinated climate action and resolves key issues related to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The UK is president of COP 26 but the current COP president (it rotates) is Chile.

There are four COP26 goals. First, the aim is to ‘secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach’. This goal follows the Paris Agreement at COP21 where every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and to aim for 1.5 degrees. The Paris Agreement set out ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (‘NDCs’) which set out the amounts by which each country would reduce their emissions but left unagreed the timing by which these NDCs would be reduced.

The second goal is to ‘adapt to protect communities and natural habitats’. This reflects the fact that a focus on reducing carbon emissions (and hence temperature rises) will be of limited utility if ecosystems and biodiversity are destroyed and also reflects the fact that, for some parts of the world (especially low lying countries) climate change already requires them to build defences and increase the resilience of their infrastructure.

Thirdly, COP26 aims to end with an agreement to ‘mobilise finance’. The stated goal of the parties is to mobilise at least $100bn of climate finance a year by 2020 to pay for the transition away from our carbon-intensive civilisation.

Fourthly, COP 26 aims to ‘work together to deliver’. While at first glance this may seem the most nebulous of the COP26 goals, this actually is the opposite as it is reference to the desire to finalise the Paris Rulebook setting out Nationally Determined Contributions from carbon, to set the rules for the transparent reporting of action, to set common timetables for emission reduction commitments and agree mechanisms between the parties for addressing loss and damage from climate change. This is where the thousands of negotiators, UN staff and diplomats in Glasgow will earn their keep.

The first goal is what has generated the most amount of comment, has the most ‘cut through’ with members of the public and will form the majority of discussions with the COP26 delegates involved in actual negotiations to finalise the ‘Paris Rulebook‘ which sets out the rules needed to implement the 2015 Paris agreement and to conclude outstanding issues from COP25 in Madrid. It’s fair to say that things have not got off to a good start here with India stating that it can only achieve carbon neutrality by 2070 and with the Chinese president not attending Glasgow at all. However, perhaps of most importance is the question of whether the parties can agree a carbon market allowing states to conduct emissions trading. This is one of the big outstanding issues in the Paris Rulebook (it is Article 6 of the Paris Agreement). While a negotiating text on this issue has been agreed the parties do not, currently seem to be that close to actually agreeing such a market.

Six Pump Court hosts its inaugural Environmental Law Conference

On 3 December, Six Pump Court will be hosting its first environmental law conference. Entitled ‘Key changes and future trends in environmental regulation and litigation’, this event will be a timely and practice-focussed assessment of key recent developments in environmental law, on topics ranging from the Environment Bill, key issues in water law, and carbon capture and storage to corporate climate obligations and climate change litigation. Professor Richard Macrory, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Law at University College, London, will give the keynote address.

The event brings together leading experts and practitioners in the field of environmental law to give an unparalled insight into the most recent key developments and future trends. Confirmed speakers include Joanne Holbrook, Legal Director at Addleshaw Goddard LLP, Dr Sophia Northridge, Head of CCUS Tranport and Storage Strategy at DBEIS, Dalia Majumder-Russel, Partner at CMS Cameron McKenna, Vanessa Havard Williams, Partner and Global Head of Environment and Climate Change at Linklaters LLP, Professor Ole Windhal Pedersen from Aarhus University and Sarah Oliver Scemla, Director and Assistant General Counsel at Bank of America. Panels will be hosted by environmental law specialists at Six Pump Court.

The event will begin at 9am on 3 December 2021. In-person and virtual tickets are available here. This is going to be a truly fantastic event, presenting an unmissable analysis of the current critical issues in environmental law. We look forward to seeing you there.


To keep up-to-date follow us on Twitter @6pumpcourt or 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