More Stringent Environmental Laws (China)

The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress has approved the first revision to China’s Environmental Protection Law 1989 (EPL), paving the way for higher fines to deter polluters.

According to Xinhua, the revisions call for improved monitoring of both the environment and health; improved survey and risk assessment mechanisms; and more severe punishments for polluting. The revised EPL will go into effect on January 1, 2015.

In addition, The Shanghai Daily reports the Shanghai legislative body plans to produce a new, detailed environmental protection law this year aimed primarily at curbing PM2.5 pollution, which is tiny airborne particles that can pose particularly dangerous health risks.

This Air Pollution law will include exhaust discharge standards for vehicles and local factories as well as measures to control flying dust at construction sites.

A more-stringent Air Quality Index also took effect in November (Shanghai) and in another measure to be launched soon, about a third of local government vehicles will be taken off the road in Shanghai when the air is heavily polluted. Some factories and construction sites will be idled. Some outdoor activities also will be canceled when the index exceeds 300.

Fracking and Civil Law Litigation (US)

Verdict in Parr v Aruba Petroleum, Inc, No. 11-1650 (Dallas Co. Ct at Law, filed Mar. 2011) is awarded to the Plaintiffs (the Parrs). According to a blog post by their lawyer (Earthworks link) the verdict included $275,000 for the Parr’s property loss of market value and $2 million for past physical pain and suffering by Bob and Lisa Parr and their daughter, $250,000 for future physical pain and suffering, $400,000 for past mental anguish.

The suit sought compensation for intentionally causing a nuisance on the Parr’s property which impacted their health and ruined their drinking water.

Aruba Petroleum plans to appeal the verdict.

Earthworks has further information and links.

Ready-Made Garment Industry (Bangladesh)

I posted in December 2013 on new standards for the ready-made garment industry.

International Labour Organisation (ILO) resources in response to the Rana Plaza tragedy are here.

“On 24 April 2013, the garment factory building “Rana Plaza” collapsed, killing more than 1,100 workers and injuring 2,500. One year after the global garment industry’s worst-ever industrial accident, the ILO together with the government of Bangladesh, employers, trade unions and the international community are working together to make sure it never happens again.”

The ILO posted April 3rd 2014 clarifying its role – this post is here.

National Climate Policy and Legislation (Ireland)

Ireland’s National Policy Position, together with the final Heads of the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill, are published yesterday (23rd April 2014); part of the Irish Government Programme for the development of national climate policy and legislation announced in January 2012.

“The evolution of climate policy in Ireland will be an iterative process, based on the adoption by Government of a series of national plans over the period to 2050. Greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation to the impacts of climate change will be addressed in parallel national plans – respectively through National Low-Carbon Roadmaps and National Climate Change Adaptation Frameworks.”

“The low-carbon roadmapping process will be guided by a long-term vision of low-carbon transition based on –
– an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; and
– in parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.”

The General Scheme of Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill 2014 is here.

The National Policy Position is here.

Consultation on the sectoral low-carbon road map for the Built Environment also begins 23rd April 2014 – here.

Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting in Company Accounts (UK)

The Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Directors’ Report) Regulations 2013 (SI 1970) are here.

These Regulations are made under the Companies Act 2006, in force from 1st October 2013, and have effect for the financial year ending on or after 30th September 2013.

They amend the Large and Medium-sized Companies and Groups (Accounts and Reports) Regulations 2008 (2008 SI 410) to require quoted companies to make certain disclosures regarding greenhouse gas emissions.

In particular, they insert into Schedule 7 of 2008 SI 410, a new Part 7 (after paragraph 14 of Schedule 7) that requires disclosure in the directors’ report for a financial year if the company is a quoted company –
– the annual quantity of emissions in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from activities for which that company is responsible including—
(a) the combustion of fuel; and
(b) the operation of any facility, (paragraph 15(2)); and
– the annual quantity of emissions in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent resulting from the purchase of electricity, heat, steam or cooling by the company for its own use (paragraph 15(3)).

These disclosures are required only to the extent that it is practical for the company to obtain the information in question; but where it is not practical for the company to obtain some or all of that information, the directors’ report must state what information is not included and why.

The directors’ report must also state the methodologies used to calculate the information disclosed under paragraphs 15(2) and (3).

The directors’ report must also state at least one ratio which expresses the quoted company’s annual emissions in relation to a quantifiable factor associated with the company’s activities. (Paragraph 17)

NB: With the exception of the first year for which the directors’ report contains the information required by paragraphs 15(2) and (3) and 17, the report must state not only the information required by paragraphs 15(2) and (3) and 17, but also that information as disclosed in the report for the preceding financial year.

NB: The directors’ report must state if the period for which it is reporting the information required by paragraph 15(2) and (3) is different to the period in respect of which the directors’ report is prepared.

Electricity Market Reform (EMR) and Contracts for Difference (CfDs) (UK)

It is estimated that due to plant closures and the need to replace and upgrade the UK’s electricity infrastructure, over the next decade the UK electricity sector will need around £110 billion of capital investment.

Electricity Market Reform (EMR) is the ground-breaking UK government initiative to make sure the UK remains a leading destination for investment in low-carbon electricity.

The government’s consultation on the detailed implementation of Electricity Market Reform (EMR), alongside key sections of draft secondary legislation to help illustrate policy proposals, concluded 24th December 2013. In addition, the Energy Act, that provides for EMR, was given Royal Assent in 2013.

Information on EMR is here.

The consultation and associated documents set out implementation proposals for the key mechanisms for reform: the Contracts for Difference (CfDs) and Capacity Mechanism, as well as their associated institutional and transitional arrangements. It also sought views on implementation of measures to manage any potential conflicts of interest for National Grid as the EMR delivery body.

Documents on CfD are now published (April 2014) which are the culmination of several successive cycles of drafting and engagement with industry and the wider public, beginning in May 2012 and concluding in January 2014, with those iterations available to review. These include a revised contract, drafting to support phased projects and a narrative document plotting the transition from December 2013.

These documents are here.

The Policy and Drafting Update describes in detail the progress made in the drafting of the contract, including DECC (UK government department) response to feedback received from stakeholders. In particular, it illustrates the DECC approach to facilities with existing capacity under the RO (Renewables Obligation) and to phased projects. The updated CfD draft is intended to be largely representative of the terms to be offered to generators once the CfD regime begins to operate later this year, subject to the inclusion of a number of additional clauses described within the Policy and Drafting Update, including Sustainability and support for Private Wire Networks.

Today (23rd April 2014) also sees the announcement of 8 major new renewable projects.

“The next few years will see auctions introduced for these contracts for difference, to bring competition and market forces to bear on this essential low carbon transition and bring forward up to £110bn of private sector investment. They will see the development of low carbon technologies from tidal to carbon, capture and storage, to compete in a technology-neutral low carbon market in the next decade. They will see a capacity market introduced – both for gas generation replacing coal and for new energy-saving investment.” Per The Guardian

Tier 3 Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards (US)

New vehicle emission and lower fuel sulphur standards were agreed March 3rd 2014. These will come into force in 2017.

“Control of Air Pollution from New Motor Vehicles: Tier 3 Emission and Fuel Standards” (or “Tier 3”) are developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) under the US federal Clean Air Act (CAA).

The current USEPA’s Tier 2 Vehicle and Gasoline Sulfur Program, which was finalized in February 2000, took a systems-based approach to motor vehicle pollution by setting standards for both passenger vehicles and their fuel (gasoline). The program set stricter tailpipe and evaporative emissions standards for criteria pollutants from vehicles beginning with model year 2004 and phasing in through 2009. The program also lowered the sulfur content of gasoline to a 30 parts per million (ppm) refinery average, 80 ppm per-gallon cap, and 95 ppm downstream cap; beginning in 2004 and phasing in through 2008. The potential to extend the phase-in for small refiners and approved Gasoline Phase-In Area refiners through the end of 2010 was provided in the Highway Diesel Rule (66 FR 5136, January 18, 2001) in exchange for early compliance with the diesel program.

Similar to the Tier 2 rule, the new rule “Control of Air Pollution from New Motor Vehicles: Tier 3 Emission and Fuel Standards” (Tier 3) is a comprehensive, systems-based approach to address the impact of light-duty vehicles on air quality and health. The Tier 3 rule establishes new standards for light-duty vehicles and new fuel standards for gasoline (including a 10ppm sulphur standard).

Information on the USEPA Tier 3 Emission and Fuel Standards Program is here. (NB: the final rule is not yet published)

Invasive Alien Species (IAS) EU Regulation (update)

My post in 2013 on EU IAS is here.

16th April (today), the European Parliament is voting on the IAS Regulation. Progress is followed here.

In Scotland – The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 made a number of significant amendments to the provisions on invasive non-native species in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in Scotland.

– First, the 2011 Act amended section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as it applies in Scotland, so as to make it an offence to release an animal, or allow one to escape from captivity, to a place outside its native range or where the animal is of a type specified by the Scottish Ministers. It is also an offence to cause any animal outside the control of any person to be at a place outside its native range. There is a similar offence in relation to plants grown in the wild.

– The 2011 Act also introduced species control orders, a mechanism by which invasive species present on premises or land can be controlled with a view to preventing their spread into the wider environment.

The model adopted in Scotland comprises four basic stages:
(1) Investigation: the provisions allow the relevant body to enter land or premises for the purpose of investigating whether a species outside its native range is present on the relevant land or premises;
(2) Species control agreements (made between the relevant body and the owner or occupier of land or premises on which invasive non-native species are present) provide for operations to be carried out to control or eradicate invasive non-native species;
(3) Species control orders: if a species control agreement is not agreed or not carried out, the relevant body can make a species control order, specifying operations to control or eradicate invasive non-native species to be carried out on the premises or land in question;
(4) If the species control order is not complied with, the relevant body can itself carry out the operations – or arrange for them to be carried out.

In England and Wales – the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offence to release, or allow to escape into the wild any animal which:
(1) is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state; or
(2) is included in part 1 of schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

It is also an offence to plant or cause to grow in the wild any plant listed in part 2 of schedule 9 to the 1981 Act. But there is no wider prohibition of planting or causing to grow plants not ordinarily resident in Great Britain. It is a defence to prove that all reasonable steps were taken and due diligence exercised in attempting to avoid the commission of one of the above offences. Activities otherwise prohibited can be permitted under a licence. The sale of species covered by the above provisions can additionally be restricted by order.

There are also other laws which regulate import of non-native species.

The species control regime in Scotland allows for operations to control or eradicate an invasive animal, plant or fungus present on land or premises, excluding dwellings. The procedure is built principally around two elements: species control agreements and species control orders.

These sophisticated mechanisms are not available in England and Wales, and this matter is being looked into by the UK Law Commission. It’s recent report (issued 11th February 2014) is here.

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5 WGIII) is here

Concluding four years of intense scientific collaboration by hundreds of authors from around the world, “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change” is the AR5 Working Group III contribution to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). My earlier post on AR5 WGII is here.

AR WGIII “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change” assesses literature on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of mitigation of climate change. It builds on the Working Group III contribution to the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) and previous reports and incorporates subsequent new findings and research.

The report also assesses mitigation options at different levels of governance and in different economic sectors, and the societal implications of different mitigation policies, but does not recommend any particular option for mitigation.

AR5 WGIII is found here.