Government Changes (UK) #2

Two new Whitehall departments are created, the Department for Exiting the EU, and the Department for International Trade. DECC (the former Department of Energy & Climate Change) is moved into BIS to create BEIS – the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, encompassing Climate Change.

Departmental responsibilities are in these links:

(1) Department for Exiting the EU – here

(2) Department for International Trade – here

(3) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – here

Various Parliamentary Select Committee investigations are underway, and these can be followed on the Cardinal Environment Limited Facebook page. Select Committee Reports will be notified in my Blog, here.

Today, the first Parliamentary Research Briefing is published on the impact of an EU exit for key UK policy areas – here.

In this Research Briefing, the Environment is a key policy area covered, as is Climate Change.

The senior management structure of the Department for Exiting the EU is as shown below :

Government Changes (UK)

Deep and fundamental changes are underway both to Whitehall (government departments) and to the Ministers responsible. Please look out for my Blog posts over the next days as I summarise the changes and their implications for policy and policy delivery.

Please ensure anyone who is not yet signed up to follow my Blog, signs themselves up now. Follow the instructions. 

Thank you

Fifth Carbon Budget (UK)

A carbon budget places a restriction on the total amount of greenhouse gases the UK can emit over a five-year period. The UK is the first country to set legally binding carbon budgets.

Today, the UK Government agreed with its independent Committee on Climate Change and proposes that the fifth budgetary period covering 2028 to 2032 should be set at 1.725m metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). In 2015, the UK emitted 497 MtCO2e. The decarbonisation target is set at 57% emissions reduction by 2030 (on 1990 levels). The EU decarbonisation target is 40% reduction by 2030 (on 1990 levels). 

The 2008 Climate Change Act commits the UK to decarbonise by 80% by 2050. The carbon budgets and targets are designed to ensure the UK meets this commitment.

Orders and associated documents will be published shortly. When they are, this Blog will be updated to carry the links.

Subscribers to Cardinal Tailored EHS Legislation Registers should email if they need the 5th Carbon Budget order added to their system. Systems already carrying the 2008 Climate Change Act and associated Orders, will have the 2016 Order added automatically.

Energy Bill 2015-2016 (UK)

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2016!

I am waiting today for the second reading of the Energy Bill 2015-2016. Further blog posts will be at the end of January.

In the meantime, find here the summary of the Energy Bill as it returned to the Commons from the Lords, for this second reading.

The Energy Bill (when enacted) will:

  1. Formally establish the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) as an independent regulator of the UK Oil and Gas industry, which will take the form of a government company, charged with (amongst other matters) the asset stewardship and regulation of domestic oil and gas recovery. 
  2. Transfer the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change’s existing regulatory powers in respect of offshore oil and gas to the OGA. It will transfer the Secretary of Stateʹs existing regulatory powers in respect of onshore oil and gas in England to the OGA and in relation to onshore oil and gas in Scotland and Wales will respect the changing devolution position. The Secretary of State’s environmental regulatory functions in relation to oil and gas would not be transferred.
  3. Give the OGA additional powers including: access to company meetings; data acquisition, retention and transfer; dispute resolution; and sanctions.
  4. Introduce provisions in relation to charges for the offshore oil and gas environmental regulatorʹs services to the industry.
  5. Make legislative changes to remove the need for the Secretary of State’s consent for large onshore wind farms (over 50 Mega Watt (MW)) under the Electricity Act 1989, acting in tandem with other measures to, in effect, transfer the consenting of onshore wind farms into the planning regime in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
  6. Make an amendment to the Climate Change Act 2008 preventing, from 2028, the net UK carbon account being calculated taking into account carbon units derived from the European Union Emissions Trading System.

Within the Department of Energy and Climate Change (ʺDECCʺ), the offshore Oil and Gas Environment and Decommissioning Unit (ʺOGEDʺ) is the body responsible for environmental regulation functions relating to the offshore oil and gas industry on behalf of the Secretary of State. OGED has been charging fees annually to operators in the territorial sea and the UKCS (UK Continental Shelf) to cover the costs of its functions. OGED recently reviewed the current fees charged by the Secretary of State to ensure they were in line with current Treasury Guidance. As a result of this work, it became clear that whilst the majority of fees that were recovered were properly covered by fee schemes, there were elements that were not provided for by the current legislation. The Bill therefore validates those charges that have already been raised without authority. The Bill also provides that the Secretary of State can charge a fee in future for two sets of functions.

The UK Government made a manifesto commitment to decentralise decision making on new onshore wind farms. Ministers have said that onshore wind energy development should only get the go‐ahead if supported by local people (Written Ministerial Statement). DECC is implementing measures, including through the Energy Bill, to help fulfil the commitment by removing the requirements for a consent from the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in relation to the construction, extension or operation of onshore wind farms with a capacity greater than 50MW. In future, local authorities (or potentially the Welsh Ministers in the case of Wales) will be the primary decision‐makers for all onshore wind projects including those with a capacity greater than 50MW.

COP21: Paris Agreement is Adopted

Today, the Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention adopted the Paris Agreement. 

The Paris Agreement is found here, at the Annex at the base of the document (the first part is the Proposal). The Agreement commits ratifying countries to a range of actions to combat climate change. I will post further in January.

Article 2

1. This Agreement, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by:

(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;

(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate- resilient development.

Article 21

1. This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

2. Solely for the limited purpose of paragraph 1 of this Article, “total global greenhouse gas emissions” means the most up-to-date amount communicated on or before the date of adoption of this Agreement by the Parties to the Convention.

*** HAPPY CHRISTMAS ***

Citizen Climate Change Law Suit (the Netherlands)

Verdict of the District Court in The Hague (24th June 2015) finds in favour of plaintiff claim for action on the part of the Dutch Government to reduce the Netherlands contribution to climate change emissions. Specifically, the Government is tasked to reduce emissions by at least 25% within five years, whereas it hitherto had committed to reduce by 14-17% from 1990 levels by 2020.

The legal action was taken by the Urgenda Foundation and 900 co-plaintiffs (citizens) – information published by the Urgenda Foundation about this case, including the verdict text, is here. It is an action founded in human rights and tort law, and publicised as a first civil liability suit in the area of climate change.

Governments in the autumn are called to meet in Paris (November 30 to December 11) for COP21, CMP11 United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Paris will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 11) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. Leadership of the negotiations is yet to be determined.